APRIL FOCUS – NECK PAIN

A common issue dealt with by Osteopathic treatment is neck pain. Through taking a case history, observing posture, carrying out any special tests indicated, and assessing movement through observation and palpation. Osteopaths can form a diagnosis, and from this a treatment plan to alleviate neck pain.

Treatment will vary depending on the nature of the problem, but is likely to comprise of a combination of mobilisation and massage techniques.

Common issues causing neck pain, and that are treatable with Osteopathy are:

JOINT STIFFNESS. Sometimes this has built up over a period of time. It can relate to repetitive poor posture, perhaps day-to-day, or associated with a sport or occupational position. On occasions the joints may “lock”. Resulting in acute pain and a very reduced range of movement. This commonly happens if you have slept awkwardly, people often wake with the pain.

It is not uncommon for people to have a scoliosis in their spine (lateral curvature.) This occurs to varying degrees. It creates an imbalance in the way the joints and associated tissues function. So it is not uncommon to experience joint stiffness and restriction of movement in this instance.

Degenerative joints also create stiffness. So that is joints with osteoarthritis. Of course Osteopathy won’t be able to remove the underlying wear and tear, but it can alleviate, or even get rid of pain and discomfort associated with these changes.

MUSCLE TENSION. This may occur in isolation, but will often come hand in hand with joint stiffness or other neck problems. Osteopaths use specific soft tissue massage techniques to release muscle tension.

MUSCLE SPASM. This is protective reaction of your body to injury. Your body produces muscle spasm to try and reduce the strain you put through an injured area. Osteopathy can help to alleviate this, and offer advice to calm this type of reaction.

HEADACHES. Some headaches directly relate to the neck. A common neck-related headache pattern is pain at the base of the skull. This may also be combined with pain travelling over the head to behind the eyes. These types of problems often relate to poor posture and tension.

DISC PROBLEMS.  A bad disc problem can take some time to calm down. On occasions varying types of further intervention, and/or surgery may be necessary. If this is not appropriate, then Osteopaths can help alleviate the pain related to these problems by helping aid the recovery process. Symptoms relating to degenerative discs can also often be eased by Osteopathy.

NERVE PAIN. All of the above problems has the potential to create pressure or irritation on the nerve as it leaves the neck. This may then cause further pain relating to the nerve. In neck problems, this commonly travels into the arm. It may also cause symptoms such as pins and needles, tingling and numbness.

POOR POSTURE. This could create all of the above over a period of time. We are all guilty of slumping, especially when sitting. Refer back to the November 2012 posting on workstation posture. This obviously discusses the ideal in the work environment. The principles of sitting well however are the same wherever you are.

STRESS. We all lead such busy lives, and our lives inevitably have ups and downs. This from time to time may cause us to hold stress and tension in our bodies. It could be anywhere, but it is very common to hold this through the neck and shoulders. Osteopathy can help alleviate the physical manifestations of this. It can perhaps be used more regularly over tough periods. Identifying the stressor is important, and removing it if possible is obviously ideal. Regular stretching, exercise, good nutrition  and maintaining good posture should help in these situations.

Some Neck Exercises!

These exercises shouldn’t cause pain, if you experience a problem, stop the exercise and consult your Osteopath or other medical practitioner. If you have an existing complaint, it would be wise to consult your practitioner to check these exercises are appropriate for you.


Neck rotation


Keeping your eyes on the horizon. Look over each shoulder 5 times each way.

Side-bending


Keep facing forward. Drop your ear down to one shoulder. Repeat 5 times to each side.

Neck stretch 1


As before drop your ear down to the shoulder. Encourage a gentle stretch with your hand, hold for 10 relaxed breaths, and repeat on the other side.

Neck stretch 2

As with neck stretch 1, allow your ear to drop to one shoulder. In this position, turn your head (it will only be a slight turn) to look at your toes of the same side. Encourage gentle pressure in this direction to feel a stretch at the side, and slightly further forward in your neck.  Hold for a slow count of 10, and repeat the same on the opposite side.

Neck stretch 3


This can be done sat on the floor and sitting on your hand, as in the picture. Or sitting on a chair grabbing hold of the seat base may be more comfortable. Either way, allow your ear to drop to the shoulder opposite to the hand your grabbing with, or sitting on. Hold this position for 10 relaxed breaths. Then swap your position and repeat on the other side.