Written By: Senior Physiotherapist, Luke Eastwell.
We know incidents of neck pain affects the majority of the population at some point in our lives. For many this can be chronic and disabling. There are several factors to be considered when dealing with neck pain, and an individualised approach is ideal. This blog will touch on some of the common factors that may help improve your neck pain management.
Our neck has a lot of work to do most days. It is important we consider optimising range of motion, coordination, strength and endurance to match an individual’s life/work demands;
Posture: While there is no ‘perfect posture’ we still want to consider sustained postures and their role in neck pain. The body doesn’t like to be in any one position for too long, so regular movement out of any prolonged posture is the key here. E.g., moving from sitting to standing regularly, changing your pelvic position, or even modifying the height of your computer screen.
Mobility: When range of motion at the neck is restricted by muscle length, stretches and/or manual therapy treatment can effectively improve your range and often alters symptoms. Focus areas are usually on the upper and lower neck, and shoulder blade (scapular) connections e.g., chin tucks and armpit stretch.
Coordination: There is strong evidence supporting specific neck coordination training in prevention and management of neck pain and neck-related disfunctions. Like the lower back, there are core stability muscles that optimise movement of the head, neck and shoulders. Some key movements include chin tucks for the front and low-cervical extensions for the back on the neck.
Strength/endurance: once the coordination of the stability muscles is working well, implementing these activations in to more traditional strength exercises in the gym are a great way to bulletproof your neck whilst still enjoying more global strength training.
Upper back and shoulders: We can not look at the neck in isolation, as movements are integrated with the thoracic spine and shoulders. Ensuring the above factors of mobility, muscle and joint coordination, and strength at the upper back and shoulders are adequate is key to normal neck function/load.
Neural flexibility: Arm pain, tingling and numbness can also be related to neck and upper back dysfunction. This can also be attributed to poor neural flexibility. Like muscle and tendons, nerves can also become less flexible and ultimately uncomfortable, whereby nerve stretches (neurodynamics) can make a huge difference in your neck and arm pain.
Bringing it all together
For each patient presentation the focus areas will differ. However, each of the above factors play an important role in neck pain and should all be considered in most cases. Your physio guiding individualised mobility, coordination and strength exercises will lay the foundations for your healthy neck. Keep an eye out for some examples of the above exercises to come!
Book an appointment with Luke Eastwell HERE.