What is persistent neck pain?
Studies indicate that the majority of the population will suffer with neck pain at some point in their adult life. It is normal for these episodes to last for a few weeks and in some cases a few months. A small proportion of these people will develop symptoms which remain ongoing after the normal timescale for an episode to settle which is termed persistent neck pain.
There is often no clear anatomical cause for persistent neck pain. Posture and muscle spasm normally contribute to the pain.
Risk factors include more general influences such as stress and lower activity levels.
Pain and stiffness in a diffuse pattern across the neck and shoulders. Sometimes there may be some sharper pains or more specific pains on one side of the neck.
Commonly, symptoms tend to be aggravated with static sitting postures and prolonged work at a computer. Symptoms are often relieved with simple exercises and raising general levels of activity.
How is persistent neck pain diagnosed?
Persistent neck pain can be reliably diagnosed by your doctor or physiotherapist by taking a history of your condition. In some circumstances it may be necessary to conduct a physical examination but this is usually not necessary in uncomplicated persistent neck pain.
X-rays and scans are not routinely required and are generally unhelpful as persistent neck pain is not associated with any specific findings on imaging.
How is persistent neck pain treated?
In the majority of cases, the symptoms of persistent neck pain can be managed effectively by non-invasive measures as described below. The most effective are exercises and in those who are sedentary, increasing general activity levels.
Exercises can relieve any stiffness in the spine and maintain flexibility at the shoulders:
10 second holds to each side, 2x per day
3×10 repetitions 3-4x per week
20 slow movements up & down, 2x per day
These are suggested exercises only. If you are at all concerned about whether these exercises are suitable for you or if you experience any pain while doing them, please seek appropriate clinical advice from your GP or Physiotherapist.
Modifications include raising your seat height, changing the backrest angle, lumbar wedges as well as ensuring there is an appropriate overall set up if working with display screen equipment. Everyone is different so try out slightly different combinations which may work best for you.