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Neck Pain/Cervical Disc Injury

Definition

  • Discs sit in between each vertebrae (bone) in the spinal column where they act as shock absorbers.
  • Discs can bulge as a result of:
    - Postural overload – with poor posture over time the disc walls thin and may bulge or even rupture.
    - Heavy lifting
    - Repetitive forward bending of the neck
    - Whiplash

In severe cases the discs can rupture, causing the contents to leak out and irritate surrounding tissues, including the nerve. This may include leading to arm pain, commonly known as radiculopathy.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Pain in the lower neck usually one sided, upper shoulder, shoulder blade and down the arm.
  • Pins and needles, numbness, burning, shooting and weakness may be present along the nerve pathway into the arm and sometimes to the hand.
  • Headaches may be present.
  • Decreased range of movement in the neck.

Management

Physiotherapy Management – after careful examination your Advantage Healthcare and Physiotherapy physiotherapist will be able to diagnose the problem and formulate an appropriate treatment plan. You may be sent for further investigation such as a CT scan or MRI.

Medical Management – Occasionally despite appropriate physiotherapy management some patients may not respond adequately to treatment. You may require further investigation or intervention via scans, drug therapy, injection therapy and in some cases surgical intervention. Your general practitioner or physiotherapist will be able to refer you on for appropriate medical management.

What to Avoid

  • Do not participate in any activities or sports that increase your symptoms.
  • Do not do any heavy lifting as this will only put more pressure on the bulge or herniation.
  • Adopt a good posture when sitting and standing, which your physiotherapist will help you achieve.
  • Do not sit down for extended periods of time, especially in front of the computer or television.

 

Neck Pain/Whiplash

Definition
Whiplash represents a range of injuries to the soft tissue of the neck caused by a sudden backward then forward movement of the head.

Mechanism of Injury
Whiplash is often associated with motor vehicle accidents. However, it can happen in many other ways such as accidental falls, contact sports and assault.

Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms may occur immediately after the injury or a few days later:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Shoulder pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances, ringing in the ears

Management

  • If you have a whiplash episode it is best to consult the nearest medical practitioner for professional treatment.
  • Do not ignore the problem and continue to exercise; this may lead to the problem getting worse.

Physiotherapy Management
 Initially your physiotherapist will assess the severity of the problem. If needed, you may be referred to have further investigations such as X-ray, MRI or CT scans.
According to the severity of your injury your physiotherapist will provide:

  • treatment to decrease your neck pain,
  • a home exercise program to slowly increase your neck range of motion
  • deep neck muscle strength exercises to prevent reoccurrence of your neck pain

What to Avoid
Avoid any activities that increase your neck pain as this might worsen the problem.

Longer Term Considerations

  • The long term effects of whiplash are neck and shoulder strains or difficulty in neck movement due to stiffness and pain.
  • Good sitting posture (especially when working in front of the pc) is important.
  • keep doing the exercises given to you by your physiotherapist and go seek medical care if you feel that your symptoms are getting worse.
  • Pilates is a good way to help improve general posture and those postural muscles that have been weakened by the pain, thus preventing longer term recurrence and ongoing pain.

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Neck Pain/Cervical Osteoarthritis

Definition

  • Cervical osteoarthritis involves degenerative changes in the bones, discs and joints of the neck.
  • These changes are caused by normal wear-and-tear of the neck related to aging.
  • Over time the discs lose fluid and become stiff and brittle.
  • Spurs and abnormal bone growths (known as osteophytes) may form in the neck, which could lead to pinched nerves, ongoing pain and stiffness in the neck.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Loss of range of motion, e.g. difficulty turning your neck when driving
  • Grinding noises or sensation when neck is turned
  • Symptoms may be more severe in the mornings and again at the end of the day

Management

Physiotherapy Management – Advantage Healthcare and Physiotherapy physiotherapists have a variety of treatment options, advice and specific stability exercises that can improve your pain.

Medical Management – If physiotherapy management is unsuccessful in managing the pain, other options include pain medications, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medication.

What to Avoid

  • Movements that aggravate your neck.
  • Static postures, like prolonged reading, watching TV, computer use and writing.
  • Avoid heavy lifting
  • When getting out of bed, turn to one side rather than getting straight up
  • Make sure you have a good mattress and pillow, your physiotherapist will be able to advise you what is appropriate for your body

Do not ignore your pain, seek medical advice as early as possible.

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