Causes of Chronic Neck Pain and How To Manage It

  • 26 May 2020

Neck pain is a condition that is no stranger to everyone. Most of us would have experienced pain or stiffness in our neck from a bad night’s sleep or an accidental sprain. While neck pain usually goes away after a few days, there are some cases where the pain points to an injury or illness that requires medical attention.

In our latest article, we speak to Ms. Sum Qing Faye, Senior Physiotherapist from Farrer Park Rehab Centre to find out more about the causes of chronic neck pain and how it can be managed.

Common Causes of Neck Pain

According to Ms. Sum, there are many causes of neck pain. These may be categorized into mechanical (traumatic or non-traumatic) and non-mechanical (infection or disease-related).

“Common causes of neck pain seen at our rehab centre belong to the mechanical category. These cases include neck strains, cervical spondylosis (age-related wear and tear) and herniated discs, which may be associated with radiating symptoms down the arm,” explained Mr. Sum.

Ms. Sum shared that neck pain becomes chronic when it has persisted for more than three to six months. Many of such cases involve personal or environmental causes contributing to the pain, along with other related symptoms.

Can We Get Neck Pain Even With Good Posture?

A common myth is that bad posture leads to neck pain. However, research has shown that this is not true. Adding on to this, Ms. Sum highlighted that there is no real definition for ‘good posture’.

“Our bodies are made to carry out a wide range of movement and directions, including awkward angles like looking at a bird up the tree.”

What Kind of Help Can Patients with Neck Pain Expect at Farrer Park Rehab Centre?

As with many other conditions that the rehab centre sees, Ms. Sum explains that a typical first session would involve detailed questioning and physical examination of the patient's current condition.

“As there could be many contributing factors to pain, so patients should be prepared to share various aspects of their lives to determine if these seem relevant to their neck pain.”

“Subsequent sessions would involve treatment and management of the patient's condition through various methods deemed necessary and helpful by the physiotherapist. These may include manual therapy, exercises (e.g. flexibility, strengthening, endurance, and proprioception) and modalities. Understanding one’s pain is important in managing and taking control of one’s condition; so a patient should expect adequate explanation and education by their physiotherapist during their rehab sessions. 

Is rehab suitable for everyone?

Ms. Sum emphasized that those who experience the following conditions should seek medical attention first:

  • Numbness, weakness or persistent pins and needles in the arm
  • Recent trauma such as a fall or car accident
  • Generally unwell, especially mental changes, weight loss or fever
  • Pain is worsening even with rest 
  • Neck bones are painful to touch
  • Weakness in the legs, poor coordination, and/or problems passing urine
  • Have other medical conditions such as a recent history of cancer or rheumatoid arthritis

How Can Neck Pain Be Prevented?

According to Ms. Sum, research has shown that poor sleep, reduced physical activity and increased stress1 are important factors that contribute to neck pain.

“Other than managing one’s sleep and mental health, the key is to move often and in a variety of ways. Deskbound workers (and gamers) should avoid staying in one position for too long. It is good to get up and move around with light stretches in between work. Gentle movements of our neck, shoulders, back and even our hips are great too.”

Regular exercise can get our joints and muscles working. Brisk walking, jogging, swimming or even group classes like pilates and yoga are great examples.

To learn more, send us an enquiry here.
 


References

1 Sayilir, S. 2018. Daytime sleepiness, functionality, and stress levels in chronic neck pain and effects of physical medicine and rehabilitation therapies on these situations. Northern Clinics of Istanbul. 5(4): 348–352. doi: 10.14744/nci.2017.77992

2 Coppieters, I, De Zoute, R. M. J, Farrell, S. F, Sterling, M. 2019. Best Evidence Rehabilitation for Chronic Pain Part 4: Neck Pain. Journal of Clinical Medicine. Aug; 8(8): 1219. doi: 10.3390/jcm8081219

Contributed by

Sum Qing Faye
Senior Physiotherapist
Farrer Park Rehab Centre