There’s nothing that can put a damper on our day like neck pain. Feeling pain and stiffness anytime we turn our head is the last thing any of us need - and it’s one of the main reasons our patients book in emergency appointments to see us. When they come into the clinic, one of the most common things we hear is:
“I just woke up and my neck is killing me. I must have slept on it wrong”
Sometimes, it’s that simple - your neck was in a poor position and now you have pain. For the majority of the time, however, neck stiffness is a bit more complicated…
While the cause of your neck pain may lie in the neck structures (vertebrae, the discs between the vertebrae, nerves, bones and muscles), it may also come from your head, jaw, shoulder or upper arm - and be from something you did yesterday, as opposed to the way you slept.
Aside from general stiffness, you’re likely to experience other symptoms - and these are great for us to know. You may feel numbness or tingling (which tells us you may have a pinched nerve), light-headed, dizzy or faint (which tells us you may have a pinched artery), have muscle spasms or feel like your bones are rubbing against one another. Noting these and their location can help best guide your treatment.
While it’s natural to think that having a stiff neck means that you should keep it as still as possible, moving your neck can actually be very helpful - while keeping it still staring down at your screen or phone may be more harmful. Try these simple exercises:
As neck pain can be so disruptive to your work and life - it’s not something we recommend taking lightly or hoping that it’ll get better on its own. Get it seen by your physiotherapist - and in the meantime, you can use ice/cold to help with inflammation, heat after any swelling goes down, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Nurofen to help with the swelling and pain too - just make sure you check with your GP or pharmacist first - and avoiding staring down at your laptop or phone for long periods.