The neck is made up of seven bones (vertebrae) and is the most mobile part of the spine. It is surrounded by muscles, which often play a role in both neck stability and arm (upper limb) movement. Injuries of the neck can happen slowly overtime, due to repetitive overloading activities, without having adequate neck and arm strength. This is known as mechanical neck pain, which is either a muscular strain (pulled muscle) or joint stiffness. These sort of injuries are often minor and can be managed using the principles of POLICE under the guidance of a physiotherapist.
The neck can also suffer sudden trauma, such as sustaining a whiplash injury from a road traffic accident or fall. Occasionally these injuries can be severe and need medical management. We advise that you seek a medical opinion if you have sustained any sort of traumatic injury or if you have referred pain or pins and needles into your arms, or any headaches or dizziness (see the red flags section).
The best available evidence shows that the best non-traumatic injury prevention and management strategies strengthen your ‘above head’ upper limb movements and maintain your active range of neck motion and strength under the guidance of a physiotherapist. Posture is thought to play less of a role in neck injury management than the strength and conditioning of your neck and upper limbs. The key to management is regular activity/ exercise and regular changes of position.