There’s something quite uniquely disabling about persistent neck pain that perhaps is in part due to it’s proximity to our head, which we use for everything, and also because we don’t tend to pay too much attention to that part of our body until it is actually giving us pain. The bigger problem with neck pain is that usual care for neck pain doesn’t actually seem to be helping people to robustly improve their pain.
Usually the go-to’s for treating neck pain rely on the person in pain to place themselves in the care of a ‘fixer’. Either a doctor is expected to provide a pill to make it go away, a guru with a knack for pulling and cracking is sought to pull everything back into place, or a massage therapist with mystical hands is summoned to use their gift to eradicate muscular tension. Whilst many of these strategies can provide relief, this relief can indeed be short.
The saddest part about this is that the most robust way to treat neck pain is the way least sought after. Especially with whiplash-associated disorder – the name for chronic neck pain that is associated with a ‘whiplash event’– short term relief is regularly chased after and avoidance of activity is the main coping strategy. More people opt for surgical intervention – with very low rates of success – than for what actually works for neck pain.
It seems counter intuitive, which is obviously why it is not the commonly sought after treatment alternative, but movement therapy that increases the strength of the muscles of the neck and surrounds is as safe as it is effective. As little as 2 minutes of daily resistance exercise – the kind prescribed to make muscles progressively stronger – can provide lasting, significant short and long term effects. Most people have a concept of exercise inducing pain, but when expertly prescribed it is the only therapy that fights the processes of deterioration that are occurring. The activity-avoidant behaviour of most people with neck pain, though perfectly understandable, actually contributes to biochemical processes that mean pain can be exacerbated more easily and strength readily deteriorates. There is no medication or medical procedure able to rectify this aside from a therapeutic movement intervention.
So if you’re struggling with a pain in the neck, a physical as well as metaphorical one, the kind that makes you worry every time you lift something, that gives you headaches and nausea, that makes it hard to get from A-B because driving is agony, get help from an expert who can show you the most trustworthy way to get lasting improvements in your neck pain.