Physiotherapy Treatment for Neck Pain

Girl with pain on neck

Neck pain is the top form of body pain reported in Singapore. Neck pain refers to the discomfort and tension you experience below your head, around the top of your spine.

Sometimes, neck pain is a minor nuisance that can be remedied with simple lifestyle changes. But other times, it can manifest as a stabbing or burning sensation that may indicate a more threatening condition requiring prompt medical attention.

Without professional training, it can be difficult to determine whether medical attention is needed and when to seek professional physiotherapy treatment. To effectively seek the right course of action for neck pain, it is essential to first understand its causes.

What Causes Neck Pain?

People believe that neck pain results from problems stemming from the cervical spine itself. However, the actual cause of the pain is often far more intricate and exposes the complexity of human anatomy. 

The bones, muscles, joints, and ligaments forming our human anatomy function as an interconnected system. This relationship means that discomfort in one area of the body can trigger pain in another, and the physiotherapy treatment approach adopted by the physical therapist for addressing your neck pain will differ based on the cause of your condition. Generally, the triggers for neck pain fall under three categories:

Problems with the Vertebrae and Disc

The neck comprises several interconnected vertebrae, each separated by a disc that facilitates smooth interaction between them. If these discs or vertebrae are injured or misaligned, they compress the nerves and result in neck pain.

Muscle Strain

The neck also comprises muscles on the front, back, and side. Any of these muscles that experience physical strain will result in pain when it is overused or torn. The treatment for neck muscle strain includes medication, physiotherapy and ice or heat therapy. You will also be advised to rest or refrain from strenuous activities.

Nerve Compression

Lastly, the neck contains multiple nerve roots that extend from the spinal cord and link to various parts of the body. During a neck injury, these nerves can become compressed, leading to pain in the back of the neck. Treatments for nerve compression include injections, braces, physiotherapy or physical therapy and even surgery.

What are Some Common Diagnoses of Neck Pain?

During treatment consultation, the most common diagnoses of neck pain include the following conditions:

1. Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when the jelly-like centre of a spinal disc pushes through a weak spot in the outer wall, and it results in a pinched nerve when the herniated disc bulges out and applies pressure on a spinal nerve.

2. Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)

Degenerative disc disease arises due to the natural wear and tear of spinal discs with ageing. Physical therapy is effective in alleviating neck pain associated with degenerative disc disease. Physical therapists utilise techniques such as pain management modalities, manual therapy, targeted exercises to strengthen muscles and improve flexibility, postural correction and ergonomic guidance, motor control exercises, and lifestyle modifications to manage symptoms and reduce pain. Consulting with a qualified physiotherapist is essential to receive personalised treatment and guidance based on the individual’s specific condition.

3. Whiplash-Associated Disorders (WAD)

This refers to injuries resulting from sudden acceleration-deceleration movements that cause the neck and spine to move awkwardly. Common events that can lead to WAD include:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Contact sports, including football, hockey and rugby
  • Roller coaster rides
  • Slip-and-fall incidents

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in the treatment of neck pain resulting from whiplash-associated disorders (WAD), often entailing various techniques to alleviate pain and promote healing. Manual therapy techniques, including joint mobilisation and soft tissue mobilisation, can help restore proper neck and spine alignment, reduce muscle tension, and improve range of motion. 

Physical therapists may also prescribe specific exercises to strengthen and stretch the affected muscles, improve posture, and promote stability in the neck and spine. Education on ergonomic practices, body mechanics, and self-management strategies may be provided to enhance recovery and prevent future injuries.

4. Cervical Spondylosis

As the spine degenerates, osteophytes (“bone spurs”) may develop to fuse the vertebrae and restrict movement. These bony lumps can lead to neck pain if they come into contact with nerve roots or the spinal cord. Physical therapists employ various techniques to manage the condition and reduce symptoms. Manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilisation, soft tissue mobilisation,dry needling and gentle spinal manipulation can help improve mobility, reduce stiffness, and alleviate pain by addressing restrictions caused by the bone spurs. 

Additionally, specific exercises may be prescribed to strengthen the surrounding muscles, improve posture, and enhance overall spinal stability. Physiotherapists might also provide education on proper body mechanics and ergonomic practices to minimise strain on the affected area and prevent further aggravation. By combining these approaches, physical therapy aims to optimise spinal function, reduce pain, and improve the quality of life for individuals with neck pain caused by osteophytes.

5. Mental Stress

The neck muscles may become tensed and tight when an individual is stressed, potentially causing discomfort and stiffness in the neck. Physical therapy plays a valuable role in alleviating neck pain caused by mental stress. When the neck muscles become tense and tight due to stress, physiotherapists may employ techniques that promote relaxation and relieve discomfort. Manual therapies such as gentle stretching, massage, dry needling and myofascial release may help release muscle tension and improve blood circulation in the neck area to treat neck pain resulting from mental stress. 

Furthermore, your physiotherapist may teach you relaxation exercises and techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, that can help reduce stress levels and promote overall relaxation in your body. Postural education and ergonomic advice may also be provided to prevent further strain on the neck. By addressing the physical manifestations of stress on the neck muscles and imparting strategies to manage and reduce stress, physiotherapy aims to alleviate neck pain and improve overall well-being in cases of pain caused by stress.

6. Repetitive Neck Strain

Repetitive neck strain results from activities that persistently overexert the neck muscles, tendons, and nerves. Examples include repetitive manual labour work or using improper techniques for sports involving repetitive movements, such as swimming and heavy lifting. 

Physical therapy is instrumental in alleviating neck pain caused by repetitive strain. By addressing the underlying causes and imbalances associated with repetitive movements, physiotherapists can help reduce pain and improve overall function. They may employ a variety of interventions during the treatment process, such as manual therapy techniques to release muscle tension and restore proper joint alignment. Targeted exercises to strengthen weak muscles and improve flexibility may also be practised.

7. Poor Posture

A poor posture can lead to muscle pain in the neck. Individuals can develop poor posture while working or using a mobile device for prolonged periods or because they have an awkward sleeping position and use a pillow that does not offer proper support. Physical therapy is beneficial in alleviating neck pain caused by poor posture. Physiotherapists can assess the individual’s posture and identify any imbalances or alignment issues contributing to the neck pain. They can then provide personalised interventions, including postural education and correction techniques, to help individuals improve their posture during daily activities. This may involve exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting proper posture, stretching exercises to release tension in tight muscles, and ergonomic recommendations for workstations and sleeping positions. Physiotherapists can also offer guidance on selecting the right pillows or neck supports to provide optimal neck alignment and support during sleep. By addressing the underlying postural issues and providing corrective strategies, physical therapy aims to alleviate neck pain and improve overall posture and musculoskeletal health.

Symptoms of Neck Pain

During treatment consultation, the most common diagnoses of neck pain include the following conditions:
girl having a headache

1. Headache

Headaches can often be a symptom of neck pain. The dull, aching sensation that is commonly felt at the upper neck and back of the head is known as a cervicogenic headache, and can be caused by tightness or tension in the muscles of the neck and shoulders. This type of headache can often be alleviated by addressing the underlying cause of neck pain through physiotherapy treatment.

2. Stiff Neck

Stiff neck is another common symptom associated with neck pain. It can cause limited movement and discomfort in the neck and shoulders, making it difficult to carry out daily activities. Stiffness in the neck may be caused by muscle strain or tension, poor posture, or a sudden injury. In some cases, it can also be a sign of a more serious underlying condition. If you are experiencing neck pain with stiffness, it’s important to seek professional advice from a qualified physiotherapist who can assess your condition and develop a personalised treatment plan to help alleviate your symptoms.

girl stretching due to neck pain
man suffering from neck and back pain

3. Pain

Individuals may experience several forms of pain as follows:

  • Sharp, localised pain.
  • Referred pain triggered by a problem in another part of the body.
  • Radiating pain and numbness that starts from the neck and spreads to the chest, upper back, arms, or hands, depending on which nerve is affected.
  • Occasionally, heart conditions may also result in referred pain or stiffness, accompanied by chest and/or shoulder discomfort.

If you decide to seek professional assistance for neck pain issues, communicating these symptoms accurately is essential in helping your doctor diagnose your condition accurately and prescribe the right treatment for you.

Why Choose Benchmark Physio for Physiotherapy Treatment for Your Neck Pain?

Living with neck pain can be challenging, but with the support of seasoned physiotherapy specialists at Benchmark Physio, you can be confident that we develop the right treatments for your unique needs. At Benchmark Physio, helping patients recover swiftly from pain underpins everything we do, which is why we offer a wide range of services.

From manual therapy to exercise prescription, and mobilisation techniques, our diverse evidence-based approach to addressing pain ensures that you will have all the support you need to get the optimal outcome regardless of your condition. Don’t let neck pain keep you from doing what you love. Book an appointment with us today.

Frequently Asked Questions about Physiotherapy for Neck Pain

When experiencing uncomfortable symptoms related to neck pain, it is important to avoid self-diagnosing and comparing your experience to others. Instead, it is best to consult with a professional such as our physiotherapists at Benchmark Physio. Our specialists will conduct a detailed consultation and analysis to accurately diagnose the issue. Seeking treatment early or receiving a consultation can significantly minimise the negative impact of a debilitating condition on your life.

At Benchmark Physio, our licensed and qualified physiotherapists consider physiotherapy treatment for neck pain safe, and it is often recommended as a first-line treatment. However, as with any medical treatment, there may be potential risks. Rest assured that our physiotherapist will conduct a detailed consultation and analysis with you to discuss the risks and benefits of treatment before commencing. While the risks are generally minimal and complications rare, some possible risks may include muscle soreness, increased pain or discomfort, and temporary numbness or tingling.

Benchmark Physio follows a rigorous and personalised assessment process to diagnose neck pain. The assessment comprises a thorough examination of the patient’s neck, including range of motion assessment, strength and flexibility testing, and neurological evaluation.

Furthermore, the assessment includes an in-depth interview where our physiotherapist asks relevant questions about daily activities, aggravating factors, and other relevant information to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the patient’s condition.

Based on the assessment results, our highly trained physiotherapist designs a customised treatment plan tailored to address the underlying cause of the neck pain, alleviate symptoms, and prevent recurrence. The treatment plan may include therapeutic interventions such as exercises, manual therapy, modalities like heat or ice, and education on posture and ergonomics. Our physiotherapist closely monitors each patient’s progress and modifies the treatment plan accordingly to ensure the best possible outcomes.

There are several lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent neck pain from recurring in the future. These include maintaining good posture, taking frequent breaks if you sit for long periods, avoiding carrying heavy bags on one shoulder, using an ergonomic workstation, performing regular stretches and exercises to strengthen your neck and shoulder muscles, and maintaining a healthy weight. Additionally, stress can often contribute to neck pain, so finding healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, meditation, or talking to a therapist, may also help prevent future neck pain.

Meet Our Physiotherapist

Ng Hong Kai, an experienced physiotherapist, has carefully reviewed the information on this page.

hong-kai's profile photo

Clinic Director and Chief Physiotherapist​​

  • Master of Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), Curtin University (Australia)
  • Master of Physiotherapy, University of Sydney (Australia)
  • Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise & Sports Science), University of Sydney (Australia)
  • Member of Australian College of Physiotherapists and Australian Physiotherapy Association
  • Full registration with Allied Health Professions Council, Singapore, and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency
  • GEMt Advanced Dry Needling Practitioner

Hong Kai has been practising musculoskeletal physiotherapy for more than a decade. He is the first Singaporean to achieve dual credentials as both an APA Titled Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and a tertiary trained Exercise Scientist.

Hong Kai's broad and extensive skillset allows him to create solutions that are simple, effective and tailored to a client’s musculoskeletal needs. His beliefs in continuing education and self improvement led him to complete his Masters in Clinical Physiotherapy (Musculoskeletal), where he had a chance to participate in formal research into knee osteoarthritis under the supervision of world renowned researcher and physiotherapist Prof Peter 0′ Sullivan. 

Hong Kai has experience treating a variety of musculoskeletal conditions, with a specific focus on addressing lower back, neck, shoulder and knee pain.

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