Neck pain is very common with about one in 10 people having pain at any given time. Lifestyle issues are common factors in the causes of neck pain and issues such as sitting in front of a computer, prolonged periods of television watching and an increasing incidence of poor posture – particularly forward head posture.

Neck problems can also give rise to headache, shoulder pain, TMJ or jaw pain, pins and needles in the hands, carpal tunnel syndrome and upper back pain.

The most common cause of neck pain relates to posture. Other causes include degenerative change, sport injuries and whiplash.

Spinal alignment of the neck has an important impact on posture. Your head weighs about 5 kilograms and in normal alignment it sits balanced atop seven mobile neck vertebrae. The neck muscles maintain this position and can withstand short periods of variation. Problems can arise when awkward positions are maintained for longer periods. The balance is then disturbed and the nerves, muscles, joints, ligaments and discs of your neck become strained and irritated.

Physiotherapy assessment is appropriate if you suffer any of the following:

• Catching or ‘grabbing’ neck pain on movement
• Persistent neck ache first thing in the morning
• Neck stiffness when reversing in the car
• Clicking neck noise when turning head
• Constant aching neck muscles
• Tingling, pins and needles, or numbness in your hands or fingers

Treatment techniques can include heat / ice therapy to help control muscle spasm, spinal mobilisation, traction, soft tissue mobilising, and exercises to gain and maintain improved range of motion, postural advice, and preventative strategies.