Neck Pain & Whiplash-Associated Disorders (WAD)
Did you know that:
Neck pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, second only to back pain.
Between 27-48% of working adults complain of neck pain annually.
Office workers who are deskbound and sedentary individuals have a higher incidence of neck pain than the general population.
The prevalence of neck pain is higher in women, peaks in middle age and is influenced by psychosocial, environmental and physical conditions.
Most episodes of acute neck pain will resolve with or without treatment, but nearly 50% of individuals will continue to experience some degree of pain or frequent occurrences.
Neck pain has serious consequences for the person’s personal health and overall well-being, can severely hinder daily activity and participation, and has large economic consequences for society.
Who gets neck pain?
- Unique risk factors for neck pain include trauma e.g. traumatic brain injuries and whiplash-associated disorders and certain sports injuries that may result in a concussion e.g. wrestling, rugby, football.
- Although certain occupations such as office and computer workers, manual laborers, and health care workers, have been found to have a higher incidence of neck pain, the major workplace factors associated with the condition are low job satisfaction and and prolonged sitting which also leads to HEADACHES.
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What causes neck pain?
Neck pain can be categorized by mechanisms as mechanical, neuropathic (nerve-related), or secondary to another cause (e.g. referred pain from the shoulder, heart or vascular pathology).
- Mechanical pain refers to pain originating in the spine or its supporting structures, such as ligaments and muscles e.g. pain arising from the facet joints, intervertebral discs, and muscles around the neck.
- Neuropathic pain refers to pain generally involving mechanical or chemical irritation of nerve roots. This occurs due to herniated disc in the neck or osteophyte (bony spurs) or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the space within the cervical spine) causing increased pressure on the nerves in the neck. It can lead to radiating pain into the arm with associated numbness, pins & needles and weakness, also called as cervical radiculopathy.
Whiplash is the term used to describe the acceleration-deceleration forces on the neck which may occur in rear-end or side impact motor vehicle collisions or in contact sports and some non-contact sports due to a fall.
These forces may result in painful injuries to the muscles, ligaments and joints of the neck and other spinal areas. However, sometimes they result in no injury or pain at all!
The main symptoms of a whiplash-associated disorder are neck pain and stiffness. Other symptoms suchas headaches, aching in the arms or feelings of being lightheaded are not uncommon.
Symptoms may appear immediately after the incident or have a delayed onset of a few hours or days. The nature of injury and the severity of symptoms vary between different people. Most people recover well from a whiplash injury although at different rates. A small percentage of people may develop long-term neck pain. Research is being conducted worldwide to understand why there are different recovery rates between different people.
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Assessment of Neck Pain
At Praxis Rehab Physiotherapy, we ensure a thorough assessment to rule out any red flags i.e. any signs and symptoms that might indicate a more serious condition. If needed, you will be referred for scans (x-ray, ultrasound and MRI).
A proper history-taking of your problem will help us to identify – the barriers limiting your ability to move at home/work/socially, nature and behaviour of pain, coping strategies, your concerns regarding pain, beliefs and attitudes developed over time to manage the pain, and short & long-term goals.
A detailed assessment of the neck will aim to look for any pain, stiffness, tightness and weakness of muscles, or instability in the cervical spine during neck movements, functional movements, work-related and sports-specific activities. A neurological assessment will be conducted in case of radiating pain and weakness in the arm. We also focus our attention to your posture and ergonomic set-up at work as this may be one of the contributing factors to your pain and developing stiffness in the cervical and thoracic spine.
Management of Neck Pain
Research has shown that physiotherapy treatment combining hands-on/manual therapy and exercise therapy works better than either of those treatments alone. Hands-on/manual therapy such as soft tissue massage, joint mobilization, and in some cases dry needling is aimed to reduce pain and improve mobility of the facet joints and the surrounding muscles.
At Praxis Rehab Physiotherapy, we aim to derive considerable comfort and results from research that consistently demonstrates improvements in symptoms with a well-structured and graduated exercise program. We will advise you on the type, duration and dosage of exercise, modify activities if painful. Based on ergonomic assessment, we will suggest your ideal work set-up and also any modifications if necessary.
We put great emphasis on education as an essential component of rehabilitation, and attention to lifestyle factors (smoking cessation, nutrition, stress, and sleep management) to enhance outcomes.