Your neck (cervical spine) is made up of several vertebraes (bones) that extend from the skull to the upper back (thoracic spine). Ligaments and muscles around the neck helps to support the head and allow a good range of motion. Cervical discs act as cushion in between the vertebraes to absorb shock.
Many people experience neck pain or stiffness around the neck. Most common cases are due to poor posture and normal wear and tear. It can also caused by sports injuries or whiplash.
Most of the time, neck pain can be relieved within a few days. But if it continues for more than a week with severe pain, one should seek medical attention immediately.

So, let me outline a few causes of neck pain/stiffness.
1. muscle strain and tension caused by poor posture, sitting in front of the computer for long hours, repetitive stress, over-training during exercises and bad sleeping position (height of your pillow). Most cases no need medical attention. A simple deep tissue massage and adequate rest will solve the problem.
2. sudden jerking of the head due to car accident, fall or contact sports (whiplash). The soft tissues, muscles and ligaments are overly stretched beyond the normal range of motion resulting in tears.
3. wear and tear/ aging of the vertebral disks , also known as ruptured or slipped discs. Its commonly known as cervical spondylosis. The protruded discs thats bulging out pinches on the nerve roots or spinal chord causing joint pain. In severe cases, you may feel tingling or numbness down the shoulder blades and arms. Please seek medical attention at this stage.

Symptoms of severe cases (cervical spondylosis)
1. pain around the shoulder blade
2. pain running down the arm especially around the elbows. Accompanied by tingling sensation and numbness along the arm and fingers.
3. muscle weakness on arms and fingers
4. severe pain when sneezing or coughing , tilting up and down of the head.

So how do u go about it if u suspect the above condition?
One can go through a MRI scan , which produces images using radio waves and a magnetic field to locate pinched nerves.

Here are several treatment options
1. medications prescribed by doctors such as painkillers and muscle relaxant.
2. physical therapy. Stretching, exercise rehab and physio . Neck traction also helps to increase the space between the vertebraes.
3. Surgery. Its the last option and its rarely necessary. Personally i don’t encourage it unless no choice.

So here are some personal tips for mild neck pain treatment!!!
One have to make lifestyle changes and lower stress level. Constantly stretch the neck muscles and do frequent deep tissue massage to relieve neck stiffness. Over the counter pain reliever and anti inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen helps relieve pain and swelling. Using a heated pack or cold pack may help to relieve some pain too.

Most importantly , one must lead an active lifestyle, with a good work-life balance. Exercise and enough rest is the best cure ! So lets get active and start moving!


Sean Lee
Bsc exercise and Sports science
Edith Cowan University