According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 18.9% of adults in Canada suffer from chronic pain, with back and neck pain being the most common offenders.

That number may actually be much higher because pain in the shoulders, upper extremity and head may not be described as neck pain but is often caused by health issues involving the neck.

The Mayo Clinic cites five primary sources of neck pain that vary widely in origin and the way they present themselves:

  1. Muscle strain: poor posture, positioning and physical habits can strain neck muscles, which can result in chronic pain. Common examples of activities and habits that cause strain of neck muscles include:
    a. Hunching the shoulders while standing or sitting,
    particularly at a computer.
    b. Holding a phone in the crook of the neck.
    c. Reading in bed.
    d. Grinding your teeth.
  2. Osteoarthritis: when the cartilage between the vertebrae in the neck deteriorates with age and use, often bone spurs form that can cause pain with simple movement like turning or reaching.
  3. Nerve compression: bone spurs from osteoarthritis, herniation of the discs between the vertebrae and narrowing of spinal nerve channels all can put pressure on nerves emanating from the spinal column.
  4. Injury: whiplash injuries, where the soft tissue in the neck is strained when the head is jerked backward, can occur in car accidents, falls and injuries from participating in sports or recreational activities.
  5. Disease: certain diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis or cancer can cause neck pain.

Physiotherapy offers several modalities of treatment for neck pain. There are a range of mobilizations physiotherapists use to treat neck pain, including the McKenzie Method, The Mulligan Concept, stretching, posture training, Manual Therapy, Nerve gliding exercises, Spinal Decompression and Traction, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and cold and heat application. These modalities reduce pain, improve posture and increase range of motion. If the pain is being caused by nerve compression, traction is often applied to open the spaces between the vertebrae and relieve pressure on nerves.

Also, relief of neck pain can come from combining Physiotherapy treatments. A 2013 report in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physiotherapy found rapid reduction in neck pain when manual therapy was combined with exercise. A licensed Physiotherapist can assess each patient’s condition and recommend a course of treatment and exercise regimen that is individually appropriate.

The symptoms, causes and treatment of neck pain are often inter-related and difficult to distinguish. Physiotherapists offer patients experiencing neck pain a comprehensive assessment of the variety of factors that might be contributing to their pain and, in consultation with your doctor, a course of treatment that addresses all possible causes.


The prevalence of chronic pain in Canada:

Frequency of neck pain from the American Osteopathic Association

Causes of neck pain

Treatment of neck pain

Faster relief from neck pain by combining exercise and manual therapy