What is chronic neck pain?

After having one episode of neck pain, many people will have another episode of neck pain some point in the future. The evidence suggests that this may occur over their lifetime. Approximately one-third of people who suffer with chronic neck pain will also report symptoms such as headaches or dizziness.

What causes chronic neck pain?

There are many possible reasons why neck pain may become chronic in nature. People may have occupations that are repetitive in nature causing ongoing minor strain. Poor posture or prolonged sitting can contribute to chronic neck pain, particularly for office workers. This can then be worsened with “head down” postures at home, with activities such as texting or playing games on electronic devices.

Other causes of may be pathological including disc degeneration or osteoarthritis of the small joints in the neck. Arthritic changes may be secondary to over-loading of the neck, but it is also suggested that some people have a genetic predisposition to developing osteoarthritis.

Signs and symptoms of chronic neck pain

Recurrent neck pain is characterised by repeated episodes of neck pain over many months or years. Chronic neck pain will usually fluctuate depending on what activities aggravate each individual’s pain. The pain is usually felt at the back and sides of the neck but may spread into the head, if the upper joints are symptomatic, or down the back or into the arms, if It is a lower neck problem.

Other symptoms that may come from the neck include feelings of headaches, light-headedness, unsteadiness in balance and sometimes disturbances in vision.

Conservative treatment of chronic neck pain 

Your health care professional will first aim to understand how the chronic neck pain and associated symptoms affects or limits your daily life, work, recreational activities and sleep. A comprehensive clinical examination to analyse postures and aggravating positions will be carried out to determine how the pain is affecting movement and function. It is also important in the treatment of chronic neck pain to provide education about aggravating activities that should be avoided with this condition.

Education: Is a vital part of treatment for chronic neck pain so the patient can understand the condition and actively participate in their management.

Manual therapy: This is an effective treatment method used to help ease the neck pain and associated symptoms, as well as restore movement.

Exercise prescription: Exercise is designed to help improve strength and range of the neck to restore normal function. It will also include strengthening of the shoulder girdle muscles and supporting muscles as this helps to alleviate strain on the neck.