Non-specific neck pain (NSNP) is a common musculoskeletal condition resulting in pain, loss of movement and disability. Neck pain is the fourth greatest cause of global disability and affects between 30% and 50% of adults in any given year. Given the prevalence of neck pain, it is likely that most adults will experience neck pain at some point in their life. Current guidelines for managing NSNP includes a combination of exercise, stretching, simple painkillers, and ‘hands-on’ physiotherapy.
NSNP is defined as pain or discomfort in and around the neck and shoulder girdle,. It can be also result in a restriction in neck movement in certain directions, and can also be in conjunction with symptoms into the hands and arms, such as numbness, pins and needles or pain.
When diagnosing the nature of neck pain, it is important for the physiotherapist to take a thorough history, specifically detailing the precise location of your symptoms, and what movements or activities either make your symptoms worse, or make them better. This information gives us information as to which exercises may be beneficial to you.
- Keep moving
- Take regular analgesia if you feel you need to or if it helps you to be able to exercise
- Use heat packs to relax muscles before you start to exercise or stretch
- Take regular breaks from your computer or workstation to ensure you are able to change position
- Review your working environment, especially if you regularly use display screen equipment (DSE). Further information can be found at https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ck1.pdf
- Adopt abnormal movement patterns (such as turning from your body instead of your neck)
- Use collars or neck braces, unless you have been specifically directed to do so by a healthcare professional.
Use a hot water bottle or warm wheat bag at the site of pain. Ensure applications of heat are not made directly onto skin. Warming creams and gels can give some relief, however any benefits are likely more associated with the action of rubbing or self-massage, which you may also find beneficial.
Start some simple range of motion exercises at the first sign of discomfort around the neck or shoulder girdles. Incorporate both range of motion exercises and gentle stretches. Perform them frequently throughout the day.
For further information please see the following resources;
For beginner level pilates aimed at spinal pain, please see link to NHS YouTube channel: