Neck pain troubles most people at some point in their lives and can sometimes lead to other issues such as headaches, dizziness and feelings of nausea. Most people will discover that as they age their neck does not move quite as easily anymore. Typical things that we can hear in clinic are “I can hear my neck clicking and popping”.
While clicking and popping can be quite concerning, it is very common and usually related to stiffness between the joints and tightness of the muscles. This is explained further on the Arthritis Research UK charity website.
The neck is made up of 7 bones (vertebrae) which are separated by structures called discs and cartilage. These two structures help absorb the stress on the joints, which are further supported by ligaments and muscles. The vertebrae are necessary to allow you to move your head so you can look at your feet and over your shoulder for instance.
If your neck is causing you discomfort or feeling tense, self-management techniques such as gentle range of movement exercises (e.g. looking down, tilting your head back, looking over each shoulder and bringing the ear towards your shoulder) and heat may help ease the tension of your muscles, and some over the counter medication may help settle some of your symptoms. Please seek further advice with your local pharmacy or GP to provide assistance with this as some medication may not be indicated for you or should not be combined with some of the medications that you are already taking.
If your symptoms last for longer than 6 weeks and have not improved with self-management, please see your GP for further advice or referral to physiotherapy. As physiotherapists, we will assess the movement of your neck joints, your posture and your muscles to establish the possible cause for your neck pain. During treatment we will advise you on good postural habits, exercises and, if clinically indicated, we may use hands-on techniques to assist you.
Please be aware that signs such as collapsing without loss of consciousness, vomiting, increased nausea, headaches, numbness down the arms, pins and needles, dropping off items or dizziness may not always be coming from the neck or may require further assessment. In these cases please seek further medical attention through your GP to help guide you to the correct pathway of care.