What Is Neck Pain & What Can Cause Neck Pain?

Neck pain is one of the most common problems that we see in our practice. Neck pain and stiffness can be caused by structures such as the muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs and nerves. It can also be referred pain from other areas like the upper back, shoulders, or even the jaw.

Physiotherapy can
help with neck pain

Neck physiotherapy identifies the underlying structure which is the cause of the pain and gives treatment to address the pain. This includes gentle massage, mobilisation of the joints, ultrasound and heat and TENS to help alleviate the pain. We also prescribe stretches to help restore movement, and strengthening exercises to help rebuild the muscles around the neck and shoulders to help prevent future recurrences. We look to see if there are any underlying causes which could be addressed to help prevent neck pain from returning. Things like poor posture, poor workstation, computer or laptop setups. We give advice on frequency of breaks at work or study, what exercises to do during your breaks and which would be the best forms of exercise or fitness you can do to prevent neck pain. We offer weekly stretch classes here to improve your flexibility and we offer Physio Matwork classes 2 x per week to help to strengthen your spinal muscles to better support the weight of your head and decrease your neck pain.

Can Neck Pain Cause Headaches?

Neck pain can also refer up into the head and cause headaches at the back of the head, the eyes, ears, or around the front of the head and the temples.  We call these tension or cervicogenic headaches. They respond very well to physiotherapy to gently massage away muscle tension, mobilise the joints to restore movement and ultrasound and heat packs and TENS give pain relief. We will provide a gentle program of stretches and progressive strengthening exercises as well as postural advice to help prevent future recurrences. Identifying the underlying cause of the headaches is also important to make sure that the headaches don’t keep returning. Good posture is important, desk setup, frequency of breaks and general fitness helps to promote good muscle strength around the neck and shoulders to better support the weight of the head. These are all important to prevent or reduce the frequency and severity of headaches. The exercises we give out are individually tailored and can be gym or home based depending on your interests and time. We also offer Physio Matwork classes here 2 x per week to help rehabilitate your muscles and strengthen them up to better support your spine.

Postural Neck Pain

Poor posture is a very common cause of neck pain.  The way we sit at the computer, study at our desk, our workstation setup, and even the way we sleep can all contribute to neck pain and stiffness.  If we spend too long in poor positions, we can develop muscle imbalance and weakness which can affect our neck and shoulders and cause pain.  Neck Physiotherapy identifies these problems and helps to correct them through education, gentle massage, joint mobilisations, providing stretch programs and progressive strengthening exercises that you can do at home or provide you with a gym program. We can show you how to set up your workstation or desk at home properly, and give you tips on how often to take a break, what you should do in your break, and how long to sit and stand at a sit/stand desk.  All these things are important in preventing future pain. We also offer weekly stretch classes to help you relax your neck and shoulders and we offer Physio Matwork classes 2 x per week to help build up the strength and endurance in your posture muscles.

Acute Wry Neck

This is a very painful condition in which someone is unable to turn their neck or tilt it in one direction.  It is common for people to wake up with their neck ‘locked up’ in an uncomfortable position and experience sharp pain if they attempt to move from this position.  It is caused by the neck muscles spasming on one side and not allowing the neck joints to move. It can be caused by straining the neck through lifting something heavy in the days beforehand, or sometimes being very tired and sleeping in an awkward position, and not waking to roll over even though the neck is uncomfortable.  Neck physio treats the neck spasm and joint stiffness by massaging the muscles, mobilising the joints gently and by giving advice and gentle stretches to do at home or at work. We then provide a strength program to help prevent future occurrences.

Bulging Disc

A bulging disc is a common injury to the spine.  It can occur in the neck, thoracic (upper back) or the lumbar spine.  A bulging disc can commonly be referred to as a slipped disc or a protruding disc.  The disc is the rubbery material between the vertebrae in the spinal bones. This condition occurs when the soft centre of the spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher outer casing.  Some bulging discs cause no symptoms, others can irritate the nerves nearby which can cause neck pain, headaches, and shoulder or arm symptoms. Disc bulges can occur due to gradual, age-related wear and tear, poor posture, repetitive activities or trauma like a fall, heavy lifting or a car accident. Most patients respond well to neck physio treatment to alleviate the pain and help to strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles. We use massage, gentle joint mobilisation techniques, ultrasound, heat packs and TENS for pain relief. We work on restoring the neck and shoulder range of motion and then we concentrate on improving the neck and shoulder muscle strength and endurance. It is important to rehabilitate the neck and shoulder muscles properly to help support the disc better and to prevent further recurrences.  We offer Physio Matwork in small group classes to help improve your core strength to support your neck and shoulders better, alleviate the pain and prevent future injury.

Tension Headaches

Tension or cervicogenic headaches can often be felt in the neck and shoulders, and can radiate to the upper part of the neck and the back of the head.  They are often described as a band of tension or pressure in the back of the head or neck. Sometimes you can experience pain around the eyes, dizziness or even nausea.  One of the causes of cervicogenic headaches is poor posture like sitting at a computer or studying for long periods in a slouched position. Cervicogenic headaches respond very well to physiotherapy where we address the underlying muscle tension and joint stiffness, provide advice on correct desk and computer setup, pillows, sleep advice, as well as a good stretch and strengthening program to correct the muscular imbalances and weaknesses. It is important to address these underlying causes so that the headaches do not keep returning. We offer weekly stretch classes to help address the neck and shoulder tightness and we offer Physio Matwork classes 2 x per week to address any underlying weakness.


Whiplash-type injuries occur when the head is thrown forcefully forwards and then backwards. This is most commonly caused during car accidents but they can also occur in falls in sport, or heavy tackles in games like football.  Whiplash injuries overstretch the muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the spine (neck and upper back), and can also affect the discs between the vertebrae, and sometimes even the bones themselves. Whiplash injuries can be serious and cause a lot of neck pain, stiffness and often headaches.  It can also affect the nerves which may cause pins and needles or numbness down the arm. It is important to get the correct advice early on and the right treatment. If left untreated a whiplash injury can become chronic and cause long term problems. Physiotherapy helps to treat muscle spasm with gentle massage, the joint stiffness with joint mobilisations and stretches, and once the pain has settled we begin gentle strength work to help rebuild strength around the neck and shoulders. In time we can add in our weekly stretch class to help restore general flexibility in the whole body or our Physio Matwork classes to help regain your core strength to support your spine better and prevent any future neck or back pain.

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