A Pain in the Neck
Pain in the neck has various causes, from traumatic whiplash injuries to sitting, staring at a computer for too long or driving for hours on end as part of your workday. I think we can accept these as reasons for neck pain but it doesn’t change the misery of sufferers, especially when the pain becomes persistent and doesn’t resolve within the expected time frame.
Persistency of neck pain (or any pain to be honest) has more to do with the way we individually manage our sensitivity than what is actually going on in the tissues.
Non-traumatic pain, or pain suffered without trauma, is mainly considered to overuse, or tissue adaptations caused by repetitive stress on the tissues.
Waking up in the morning with a stiff and painful neck is not traumatic but more about neurological sensitisation of muscle length due to sleeping with the head and neck in an awkward position. Pain is then experienced on bringing the head\neck into a neutral position because the nervous system now feels out of whack.
There lots of difference in the severity between individuals, as well as with duration. Neck pain can last five minutes, ten hours, several days, weeks or months. Most of these episodes are mild and resolve spontaneously, with or without treatment, within a few days or a couple of weeks. It’s important for sufferers to understand this, as a reassurance of recovery is essential and reasonable.
However, episodes of neck pain can have the potential to last longer for no apparent reason.
Sensitisation refers to the tendency of the nervous system to start over-reacting to stimuli, like an alarm system getting set off too easily. As a general rule, the longer any kind of pain lasts, the more likely sensitisation is to become a factor, and can even become the main problem complicating chronic pain problems.
Release of soft tissues with massage and manipulation is a way manual therapy can offer some relief of symptoms, but go back to the same habits and pain can return. However, with relief and reduced sensitivity comes the ability to do more activity and that is where the correct exercises can helpfully resolve even persistent issues.
A recent patient of mine had injured his shoulder 8 months previously. The pain had persisted and spread out into his neck and down the arm. Within three sessions on a weekly basis combined with exercises to target his shoulder, the pain had significantly reduced and the pain in his arm and neck had completely resolved. There was still the original injury to rehabilitate but his work and home life had become so much more bearable than it had been due to his pain.
If you have developed persistent neck/shoulder pain for whatever reason, then the Body Matters has the right therapist for you. Find out more on our Osteopathy page.