Neck Pain – Wry Neck

Managing sudden neck pain on your own can be difficult. Whether you’ve had an injury or just woke up with it, physio can provide the right type treatment.

Have you ever just woke up with neck pain? Well you’re not alone. Up to 75% of the general population suffer with an episode of neck pain once in their lives.

Usually it comes on suddenly, from some non-traumatic event causing severe pain and stiffness of the neck. Which can be quite debilitating. Often occurring when waking up, if the head has been held in a prolonged position or turning the head quickly in a particular direction.

This can be particularly concerning when not being able function with your neck the normal way. The reassuring news is that it can be treated with physio and resolved using the right type of treatment, in a short period of time.

Wry Neck Symptoms

  • Neck stiffness – Your range of movement becomes severely limited. Usually locked up away from the site of pain.
  • Pain – Extreme pain localised to the centre or side of the affected area. Often radiates into the shoulder.
  • Muscle spasm – The injury usually leads to muscle spasm of the surrounding neck muscles and causes further restriction in neck movement.

Causes of Wry Neck

There are several theories of what causes a wry neck. The most common one being the small facet joints (two on each side of the vertebra) become irritated or injured when held in a prolonged position or moved quickly. This causes the increased pain, movement restrictions and muscle guarding.

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The other cause of a wry neck is an injury to the disc. Whether it be a bulge or strain of the disc wall, it can cause inflammation and place pressure on nerves that branch out of the neck. This may result in pain that radiates down the arm or cause altered sensation. If you experience this altered sensation it is important to seek professional advice. Discogenic neck pain might take longer to recover than a facet, but still responds well to physiotherapy.

Treatment Options

The good news is that a wry neck can be treated conservatively with physiotherapy treatment techniques and exercise. Physiotherapy can offer manual therapy techniques to loosen the stiff joints and soft tissue release for the muscle spasm. Dry needling may also help with reducing the muscle spasm and strapping can help during the acute pain.

Once the pain has gone and movement has returned, it will be important to consider prevention in the future. Strengthening and postural correction exercises for the neck, along with advice on ergonomics for your work environment may be needed.

Ideally seek treatment within the first 24 hours to start with the right advice for dealing with this injury. After a thorough assessment you will receive the best treatment and appropriate exercises to help you recover from your neck pain.

For an appointment, call on 095290990 

Upper Crossed Syndrome – A foundation for failure

Are you aware of upper crossed syndrome? Does this postural shape look familiar to you? If yes, then you take a look at the corrective exercises I’ve included in the blog.

Posture follows movement like a shadow

Are you being double crossed by your posture? There is a chronic condition called Upper Crossed Syndrome (USC) which is expressed by the rounding of shoulders, forward chin poke of the head.  Mostly seen with elderly, but with an accelerated escalation of sedentary lifestyles and work environments, it has become a common sight for all ages.

Upper Crossed Syndrome Anatomy

The position of your head and shoulder is orchestrated by various opposing forces. These muscle balance forces vary depending on the positions we regularly find ourselves in. With UCS there is usually a weakness of the deep neck flexors and overactive/tightness of the upper traps and levator scapulae. This causes a forward head position with a hinge point at the lower cervical spine.

Lower down with weakness of rhomboids and lower traps, matched with overactive/tight pectoralis major and minor causes a rounding of the shoulders.Posture

The muscle imbalance can affect multiple joint levels of the spine, the glenohumeral joint, the acromioclavicular joint and scapulothoracic joint. These might all lead to dysfunctions and result in injury.

How does this impact me?

Well that depends on how you live your life. This is a chronic condition that affects multiple joints and progressively over years they become stiff or weak. This closes the window on living an active lifestyle and increases risk of injury.

With less mobility and stability, comes greater risk to injury. 

This is typical with most office workers, students or driver’s. Their neuromuscular system has adapted to the UCS shape for years. But the injury risk increases when activity and movement levels are pushed higher than normal, for example overhead lifting, throwing sports or freestyle swimming that requires a wider overhead range of movement and ends up putting undue stress on the upper body.

Have you got the following?

  • Chin Poke: Is your head sticking so far out it’s at risk of falling off! Next time you stop at traffic lights take a look at the other drivers posture, it’s common to see the drivers head stuck at least 12 inches from the head rest.
  • Rounding of the Shoulders: Due to a weakness of scapula retractors, the lower traps and rhomboids, the super tight Pec muscles draw the shoulders forwards. Look at overly developed bodybuilders for a great example of rounded shoulders.
  • Winging scapula: When the scapula lifts away from the wall of the rib cage, it’s usually the result of a muscle imbalance. This might take a friend to spot this one for you.
  • Creasing in the neck: It’s the last places you want to see a crease. At the base of the neck and accompanied by the start of a hump in the thoracic spine.

Change starts now – How do I get there?

Expecting to do an overhead squat or chest to bar pull up straight away might be unrealistic if you’ve spent years holding a UCS posture. But there are ways of getting there…

  • Scaling the new movement that your practicing and working within the ranges that your body allows. Giving the joints time to adapt, without risking injury.
  • Working on individual muscles that developed the weakness and tightness over the years. This requires specific strengthening and stretching exercises.
  • Muscle tightness in your neck and chest may benefit from soft tissue work to release the muscle, like massage or dry needling.
  • Correcting form, sometimes we don’t have the body awareness to identify poor technique. Having the coach or physio look at your movement to correct where it’s needed.
  • Change can only be enforced through repetition and habit. The positions you’re in most of the day dictate your posture. At work, in the car, or at home, try to change your posture regularly.

Below are some basic examples of exercises to get you started with organising the shoulder and head. Try following them regularly to give your body the opportunity to change.

Continue reading “Upper Crossed Syndrome – A foundation for failure”

Study: When is bending too much?

This recent study looked at sustained bending and the time it takes before our postural muscles give in and we begin to rely on our passive structures for support.

Alessa 2017

How long is too long, to be in a forward, bent posture? Many of us spend hours doing house chores; weeding, DIY, working on the car etc. Not to mention the time spent leaning over a computer desk or looking down at your phone.

Back pain

Your muscles play an amazing role of suspending us in these positions, but just like with exercise our muscles will reach a point of fatigue. When the postural muscles aren’t able to provide the support we then rely on “passive” structures like ligaments and fascia, which is not their primary role, eventually leading stress and increased risk of injury.

This study looked at 2 angles of the spine leaning forwards and found that within 40 seconds the participants transitioned from the support of postural muscles to the passive structures. While this was found to be a natural transition the prolonged strain on the passive structures has been shown to increase the risk of lower back pain as suggested in another study.

As mentioned in a previous blog, these positions are not “wrong” but it’s better for the overall health of the spine to regularly change position and break from sustained load on an individual structure to provide balance.

Abstract

Static trunk bending is an occupational risk factor for lower back pain (LBP). When assessing relative short duration trunk bending tasks, existing studies mostly assumed unchanged spine biomechanical responses during task performance. The purpose of the current study was to assess the biomechanical changes of lumbar spine during the performance of relatively short duration, sustained trunk bending tasks. Fifteen participants performed 40-s static trunk bending tasks in two different trunk angles (30° or 60°) with two different hand load levels (0 or 6.8 kg). Results of the current study revealed significantly increased lumbar flexion and lumbar passive moment during the 40 s of trunk bending. Significantly reduced lumbar and abdominal muscle activities were also observed in most conditions. These findings suggest that, during the performance of short duration, static trunk bending tasks, a shift of loading from lumbar active tissues to passive tissues occurs naturally. This mechanism is beneficial in reducing the accumulation of lumbar muscle fatigue; however, lumbar passive tissue creep could be introduced due to prolonged or repetitive exposure.

 

Alessaa F. et al (2017) Changes of lumbar posture and tissue loading during static trunk bending. Human Movement Science

Continue reading “Study: When is bending too much?”

What’s causing my muscle tightness?

Muscular tightness is one of the disruptions to normal movement and if not managed well can lead to possible injury. Identifying your tightness and using specific strategies will help relieve tension.

One of the main issues patients struggle with is muscular tightness. They get a feeling of pain or tightness and an inability to relax the muscle.

What is tightness?

When looking at patients I need to find out if they have mechanical stiffness or the “feeling” of tightness or a combination of both, as this would direct my treatment plan.

Is the range of movement limited? does it have a soft or hard end feel? Are movements a struggle at end range, feeling heavy? What’s the rest feeling like, is it a constant tightness?

While we can have mechanical tightness of a joint or muscle, there are also the “feelings” of tightness. You might get your hands to the floor with your legs straight and feel the hamstrings tightening. While another person could do the same, get to their knees and not have tightness.

What causes the feeling of tightness?

Tightness is a sensation like many others, including pain. What we understand from pain is that this is not always brought on physically, but also by the perception of threat.

pathway-of-a-pain-message-via-sensory-nerve-in-injured-muscle,2324600

So like pain, tightness is a protective mechanism from the central nervous system to avoid danger. On a number of levels it detects stressor’s that expose the whole body or specific region to threat.

Examples of this…..

  • Prolonged sitting, without movement we often notice tightness in certain areas, possibly through reduced oxygen supply and increased metabolic toxicity.
  • Stressful situations cause rising cortisol levels and increased activity of the Vagus nerve leading to muscular tightness.
  • Repetitive movement over a period of time causes increased tension.
  • Posture muscle tightnessInjury or pre-existing weakness can cause a guarding response from the nervous system.

Using tightness as a warning sign for these potential threats might allows us to acknowledge the situation and quickly act upon it.

What will help my tightness?

Like all movement patterns, we improve with practice. The same goes for muscle tightness. If we regularly bombard it with neural messages to remain tight we develop trigger points and chronic tightness through a process called central sensitisation. Which makes the tissues more sensitive to pain and tightness.

If we can regularly supply our nervous system with input that is non-threatening we can slowly help desensitise the muscle. But this takes time and regular repetition.

Stretching

Most people with tightness, especially after prolonged rest feel the need to stretch out. But depending on our intended goal there are different types of stretches.

  • Static stretches
  • Active stretches
  • Dynamic stretches
  • PNF (Contract-relax)

While these stretches will help, it might only be temporary without regular repetition and reinforcing the nervous system with good movement.

Strengthening

There is a misconception that resistance training causes our muscles to feel tighter. Mainly due to the effect of DOMS. That feeling of soreness you have the day after a hard workout. But some recent studies have shown that strengthening can be equally, if not more beneficial than stretching.

Improvements in flexibility coming from improved ability to handle higher levels of metabolic stress and lower levels of inflammation. By lowering the threat to the nervous system through increased strength, it allows you to work the muscle through a wider range, without getting a stretch reflex.

Massage and other soft tissue work

Another way to help desensitise these tight muscles is to apply pressure. This could be with the use of a foam roller/lacrosse ball or other manual therapy techniques like deep tissue massage, myofascial release, trigger point release, dry needling.

Relaxation techniques and breathing mechanics

Like in the previous blog, an overactive or dominant sympathetic nervous system can cause muscle tightness. Finding ways of breaking poor postures or shallow breathing using a range of methods like kapalbhati, wim-hof, meditation, yoga etc. Using these methods are just part of the process to lowering overall tightness.

Usually, just following one of these methods individually is not going to be as effective as combining them together. Try to deal with the tightness from all angles.

If guidance is required or manual therapy techniques feel free to call 09 5290990.

Study: Resistance training on neck pain

This study found positive results with strengthening exercises to reduce muscle tension and pain with office workers suffering with neck pain.

Lindegaard 2013

Working in the office you’re bound to suffer with neck pain at some stage. If poorly managed this can progressively become chronic. Not only can this impact your function, but interferes with your levels of concentration and performance at work. This then feeds into your mood and becomes a negative loop which is then difficult to break.

When treating a patient with chronic neck pain there’s a range of manual techniques that have strong evidence to support them. But in addition to hands-on therapy, exercises are provided to assist in the recovery. These could be in the form of stretches, postural setting or strengthening.

This study focused on strengthening exercises using a resistance band  (Theraband). Over a 10 week period they performed lateral raises with the resistance band once per day to the point of fatigue or up to 2 minutes. They found at the end of the 10 weeks through EMG testing the neck muscles were more relaxed and had reduced pain levels.

Original Abstract

Background: This study investigates the acute and longitudinal effects of resistance training on occupational muscle activity in office workers with chronic pain.

Methods: 30 female office workers with chronic neck and shoulder pain participated for 10 weeks in high-intensity elastic resistance training for 2 minutes per day (n = 15) or in control receiving weekly email-based information on general health (n = 15). Electromyography (EMG) from the splenius and upper trapezius was recorded during a normal workday.

Results: Adherence to training and control interventions were 86% and 89%, respectively. Comparedh with control, training increased isometric muscle strength 6% (P < 0.05) and decreased neck/shoulder pain intensity by 40% (P < 0.01). The frequency of periods with complete motor unit relaxation (EMG gaps) decreased acutely in the hours after training. By contrast, at 10-week follow-up, training increased average duration of EMG gaps by 71%, EMG gap frequency by 296% and percentage time below 0.5%, and 1.0% EMGmax by 578% and 242%, respectively, during the workday in m. splenius.

Conclusion: While resistance training acutely generates a more tense muscle activity pattern, the longitudinal changes are beneficial in terms of longer and more frequent periods of complete muscular relaxation and reduced pain.

Lidegaard M, et al. Effect of brief daily resistance training on occupational neck/shoulder muscle activity in office workers with chronic pain: randomized controlled trial. Biomed Res Int. 2013.

Neck Pain

In New Zealand neck pain is a growing problem due to a more sedentary lifestyle. They can be tricky injuries to recover from. Take a look at how physio can help.

Neck pain is a growing musculoskeletal problem with more of us sitting over longer periods of time. But also from doing heavy manual jobs or exercise.

This condition can cause various symptoms, including the following:

  • PainNeck pain Symptoms 1
  • Stiffness
  • Muscle spasm
  • Referred pain (face, arm, mid back)
  • Headaches
  • Altered sensation (ie numbness/tingling)
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

These symptoms may be caused by strain to any of the structures around your spine. Structures such as the ligaments, muscles, joints, discs or nerves. Acute injuries are often brought on through excessive loading, this could be from an accident playing sport or in your vehicle.

Other more chronic forms of neck pain could have developed from an acute injury that was poorly managed. Or with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the sustained postures can overload tissue of the neck.

Preventing Neck Pain

Your next posture is your best posture

Our body is designed to handle multiple positions. Set regular intervals every 20-30 minutes to change your sitting position. Try alternating between sitting and standing. See my other blog Sitting Posture how important is it really”

Lifting correctly

We’re not all Olympic lifters, but understanding the basic principles of lifting are important to preventing neck pain. Also understanding your limits to lifting. If it’s too heavy be honest with yourself and ask for help.

Keeping calm and dealing with stress

Stress can have a significant impact with pain and ignoring stressful situations can lead to the development of neck pain. Dealing with these gremlins will be great for you in so many ways. See my other blog on “Coping with stress”.

How can Physio help my neck pain?

Identifying the source of your injury is our primary goal with a detailed assessment. Once the root cause of your neck pain has been identified you will receive an effective evidence based treatment. Treatment may consist of the following.

The aim of the your rehab is to fully recover with the confidence to use your neck normally, without fear. Also to leave with a greater understanding of your neck to prevent any injuries in the future.

For an appointment, call on 095290990

The Office WOD

Do your best when no one is looking. If you do that, then you can be successful at anything that you put your mind to.

Following up from last weeks piece about SITTING POSTURE. It’s not about holding the perfect posture. Whats more important is changing position regularly, adding variation. Holding postures long enough results in changes to the strength of a muscle and how quickly it activates.

Neuroplasticity

This refers to the brain constantly changing to its environment, trying to find more efficient neural connections.

Consider your memory at school, studying a particular subject and you ace the exams. Now think 10 years on and you’ve done nothing relating to the subject, you’ll likely struggle with the same exam paper. The neural connections changed, these memories were not regularly reinforced and were forgotten.

Look at the typical sitting posture above that we find most of us in. Multiple changes are happening from head to toe. This also happens on a neural level. The longer we hold this posture the more the change will be ingrained. When doing complex activities that require fast reactions or more strength the adapted structures will make the task more challenging.

The Office WOD

The office workout is focusing on the neglected muscles we forget to stretch or use throughout the working day. Following this routine, 10-15 minutes at Lunch or on a coffee break will help maintain healthy muscle activity and length.

**This does not substitute exercise that gets your heart rate elevated.

The Workout won’t draw too much attention to you in the office. I won’t have you doing planks off the office chair or dead lifting the photocopier.

1. Chin Tucks (1 minute)

2. Neck Extensor stretch (1 minute)

3. Thoracic Spine Stretch (2 minute)

4. Posterior Shoulder Strengthening (1 minute)

5. Forearm  Stretch (1 minute Each)

6. Glute Strengthening (1 minute)

7. Hip Flexor Stretch (1 minute each)

8. Hamstring Stretch (1 minute each)

9. Calf Stretch (1 minute each)

Try these exercises in your workplace to get muscles fired up again and working. Feel free to leave a comment about any of the exercises or any suggestions for changes.

Myofascial Release

Myofascia interweaves through our muscles and takes up to 80% of muscle mass. Consider this when you’re doing your stretching and but not getting the results you wanted, it’s possibly due to fascial restrictions.

What is Myofascia?

Fascia is the largest system in the body with the appearance of spider’s web. Fascia is very densely woven from the top of the head to our toes, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, all our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. In this way, you can begin to see that each part of the body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like a fitted suit.

How would it affect me?

Myofascia interweaves through our muscles and takes up to 80% of muscle mass. Consider this when you’re doing your stretching and but not getting the results you wanted, it’s possibly due to fascial restrictions.

I’d like you to try something. Reach behind your back with your right hand, grab a handful of the shirt/top in the middle of your back. Now try and lift your left hand above your head, it will likely be restricted and wind up in certain areas. Think about the tightness and restriction you might feel doing an overhead lift or in the back when squatting, it could be the fascia pulling on these areas.

One study has shown that tightness in the posterior neck muscles can cause a significant decrease in hamstring length and strength. (1)

What causes it to get tight?

Postural adaptations, trauma, inflammatory responses, and surgical procedures create myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, MRI scans, etc.)

What does Myofascial release involve?

The MFR technique appears quite light as it puts a slow sustained shearing force on the superficial layer of fascia that lies beneath the skin. The superficial layer taps into other deeper structures within muscle and other systems of the body. There is no oil used as it allows for more feedback detecting for fascial restrictions into the therapist’s hands. There is extensive evidence that shows myofascial release is an effective tool in improving flexibility and reducing pain (2,3,4,5)

How does it differ from a deep tissue massage?

With DTM this is more directed to muscle tissue that has adhesions or is tightened and needs deep pressure to bring back some length and lower its tone. Although the deep pressure can be painful depending on how sensitive the tissue is and pain tolerances of the individual.

 

  1. McPartland et al (1996) Rectus capitis posterior minor: a small but important suboccipital muscle, Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies
  2. Hsieh et al,  (2002) Effectiveness of four conservative treatments for subacute low back pain: a randomized clinical trial. Spine.
  3. Wong, K.-K. et al, (2016) Mechanical deformation of posterior thoracolumbar fascia after myofascial release in healthy men – a study of dynamic ultrasound. Physiotherapy
  4. LeBauer et al, (2008) The effect of myofascial release (MFR) on an adult with idiopathic scoliosis. J Bodyw Mov Ther.
  5. Ajimsha et al (2012) Effectiveness of myofascial release in the management of lateral epicondylitis in computer professionals. Arch. Phys. Med. Rehabi.
  6. Ajimsha, M.S. et al, (2014) Effectiveness of Myofascial release in the management of chronic low back pain in nursing professionals Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies