The neck is made up of 7 vertebrae that support the skull and allow us to turn, bend, straighten and tilt our heads sideways. Spaces between the vertebrae allow the spinal cord to pass from the brain and supplies sensation and power throughout the body.
It is possible to have referred pain from the neck which can often radiate down the arm and this can go into the fingers or thumb depending on the area affected. Often with this you may experience pins and needles or numbness and this is a sign that a nerve may be irritated. Pain may also be felt at the back of the neck or radiating into the muscles around the upper shoulders.
If you have had trauma to your head/neck or symptoms such as dizziness, problems speaking or swallowing, drop attacks, nausea, visual disturbance or numbness then please take medical advice.
What can I do to help?
Simple painkillers (paracetamol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDS, (ibuprofen) are available over the counter and can be very effective for musculoskeletal pain. If you are currently taking any form of medication it is advisable to consult your GP or pharmacist before taking pain relief.
Ice or heat
If your neck is painful then applying a heat pack is usually most effective at relieving pain. These can often be bought in neck shapes for comfort at your local pharmacy. A covered warm water bottle can be useful otherwise.
Reducing the strain on your neck
It is usually best to carry out your normal activities, but try not to overdo it. You need to pace yourself to start with and try to do a bit more each day.
Rest or Exercise?
Aim for a balance between rest and exercise to prevent your neck from stiffening up. Try to avoid the movements that are most painful. However, it’s important to remain generally active even if you have to limit how much you do.
Physiotherapy treatment may consist of mobilisations or soft tissue techniques/stretching. Occasionally taping if required. The strength of the muscles of around your neck often influences neck pain. You will always have a comprehensive exercise plan for home.