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Neck Pain (Non-Traumatic) and its treatment by Osteopaths

In some ways, neck pain can be very similar to lower back pain. They can both be caused by joints, muscles, or other soft tissue. Either can be debilitating or scary. Your osteopath is qualified to help with both areas.

Neck pain diagram

Causes of Neck Pain commonly seen by Osteopaths

Muscular Causes

Sometimes you might just wake up with a sore, stiff neck, and for no apparent reason. In cases like this, sometimes all we can put it down to is having “slept funny”. This is a common cause of neck pain and is easily treatable by osteopaths. If nothing discernible has changed, it might be as simple as that, and we focus on treating the episode rather than working out exactly what happened. If symptoms follow a change like adding or taking away a pillow, we might advise that you go back to the old sleeping position.

Often this kind of neck pain is muscular. Torticollis is where one muscle on the front and side of the neck goes into spasm, limiting rotation and bending in one direction. This might mean that your head is held in a specific position, limiting your daily function including driving and sleeping. Fortunately, these spasms can go as easily as they come if addressed quickly.

Modern life asks us to put a lot of demand on our necks. From subconsciously straining the neck to look at a computer screen, to looking down all day to text, cook, read, or clean. The head is heavy, but when balanced properly on the neck, there is very little work for the muscles of the neck to do. It becomes exponentially heavier as it comes off centre, whether that’s tilting down or shifting forwards. Excessive strain on the neck is a risk factor for neck pain.

Discs and Joints

Like the lower back, there is a disc between each vertebra in the neck. These too can bulge, causing local pain, or pain into the arm if a nerve is caught. This can be painful and worrying, but bear in mind that the disc will never become displaced. A “slipped” disc is a misnomer: discs are very securely attached to their adjacent bones. Even in cases of spondylosthesis, where a vertebra becomes displaced, the disc will keep the problem bone attached to the ones above and below.

Joints in the neck can become stiff as a result of osteoarthritis or simple irritation. In either case, your osteopath will want to improve local movement to allow the body to heal itself. The joints in the neck are very small, but the effect of even just one getting stuck can be quite significant. Treatment may involve clicking the neck if that is appropriate for you, but don’t let that put you off. If you prefer not to have this kind of treatment, we have plenty of more gentle techniques at our disposal. You can also expect exercises and advice to support you between treatments and speed up your progress.

Secondary Problems from Neck Pain

The neck itself can be a cause for some headaches. There also appears to be a link between the neck and migraines in some cases.

There is also the possibility of a two-way relationship with the jaw. If you tend to keep your head forwards enough that it becomes inefficient, your neck muscles have to work harder. This strain can cause compensation in the muscles in the cheek, causing clenching or tooth grinding. If this leads to jaw pain, your neck might brace further to try and protect it, and the two problems make each other worse. Your osteopath can help to break these cycles by treating both areas.


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