Chronic Neck Pain Physiotherapy

Whats is Chronic Neck Pain

Chronic neck pain is a more complicated, longer-lasting and sometimes more debilitating type of neck pain.

Chronic in this context refers to the length of time the problem has been there, not the severity. A painful neck that is has existed for a short time is called Acute Neck Pain. It possible to have long-standing but not severe neck pain, this is still chronic neck pain. This article concentrates on musculoskeletal chronic pain, which is the pain of the muscles, connective tissue or joints of the body. In the context of this article, it refers to the pain of the neck and shoulders.

How does Chronic Neck Pain start

Chronic pain is more complex as it can often originate from multiple sources, for example, an external trauma or a condition such as osteoarthritis (cervical spondylosis) or fibromyalgia.

It may also have an “insidious onset”, that is, one with no obvious cause or trigger. This is termed non-specific neck pain. This term non-specific isn’t a dismissal of the pain you are in, instead, its more to do with the complexity of chronic pain.

The pain may be constant or come in flare-ups or occur periodically. It may have neurological symptoms (pain down the arms, pins and needles or numbness) or may be very specific and local.

Somewhat rarely, the pain is related to more serious spinal or spinal cord conditions. Please don’t worry. These conditions are rare and you will be screened for these conditions by your experienced Charted Physio during your initial consultation. If you have any specific concerns please ask your clinician and they will discuss them with you.

Why can it be more difficult to treat

Chronic neck pain is often characterised by:

  • A history of multiple trips to various health professionals such as doctors or orthopaedic surgeons and physios.
  • A feeling of going round in circles or not being listened to.
  • People can also be hyper-protective, hyper-vigilant or just plain worried having been shown MRI’s or Xrays of their neck. These can have seemingly frightening pathologies such as bone, disk or joint changes in the scan.

Often people will have tried a variety of treatments such as:

  • Steroid injections
  • Acupuncture or dry needling
  • Various exercise programs with varying degrees of effectiveness.
  • Pain medication

These treatments may have had no effect or changeable effects. For example, an exercise might have worked last time, but be ineffective now.

Chronic pain can be complex in character because the presence of pain over time can an effect on our nervous system. This means it becomes more sensitive, that is, more easily triggered. Chronic pain can have a negative effect on mood provoking other problems like

  • Irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Poor sleep
  • Anxiety
  • Low mood and depression

Each of these areas interacts with the others to cause what we come to know of as chronic pain and are the reason why it can be complex and sometimes slow to resolve.

Some good tips on how to manage chronic pain can be found here.


Bad posture and other common myths

Surprisingly some of the more commonly blamed sources of your chronic neck pain are not as important contributors to your pain as might be thought. Issues such as poor neck posture do not correlate well with pain. This means that while neck posture can certainly be a contributor to pain, it doesn’t have to be. In fact, much of the assessment is based around finding out exactly what your provocations are. For example, many people have historical Whiplash Injuries which continue to be painful long after they should have healed. There may even be x-rays saying their bones and joints are normal. This may mean that a type of issue called central sensitisation is at play. Central sensitisation is where the network of neurons which detect and process threat in the body are over-excitable. This excitability can cause the system to misinterpret safe stimuli like touch or movement as pain.

What can physiotherapy do?

As part of your assessment, major pathologies will be ruled out and then following a series of physical tests you and your physio will begin to build a positive, proactive and realistic plan to begin to take steps forward.

The approach we take is to build a partnership with you in your rehabilitation. To find a route through that works for you and helps you to achieve your goals.  We won’t promise miracle cures, in fact, our first step is often just to try and assert some control over your pain through positive pain management techniques before setting the next goal.

We will draw upon a number of tools, including some hands-on therapy for short term relief, while building the foundations for the longer-term resolution of your pain, through an individual exercise program and other techniques such pain and provocation management and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

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Book your chronic neck pain physiotherapy appointment online now!

We are ideally placed for people in Stockport and South Manchester. Book now and start your recovery today.

You can cancel with a full refund up to 24 hours prior to the appointment. Unfortunately, after that, we are only able to refund 50% of the cost.