Painful neck muscles
Habitual poor posture is the most common cause of neck pain.
The diagnosis can usually be made clinically on the basis of symptoms, medical history and physical findings, without having to resort to further image diagnostics.
Usually, patients are not older than 40, spend most of their time sitting (at least 8 hours a day in front of the computer or in the car) and spend most of their free time doing quiet activities (they read a lot or spend a lot of time in front of the TV).
What are the symptoms of neck muscle pain?
Normally, no neck stiffness or restriction of movement is detected during the clinical examination, only a tension and hardening of the neck muscles, which can be clearly felt during palpation. An X-ray would not show any abnormalities.
The complaints affect the superficial muscles. Often, when touching the neck and shoulder area, you can feel “harder” spots, which are muscle hardening and contractures, which usually occur on the trapezius and strap muscles.
Sometimes the patient feels differences between one side of the neck and the other. At night, the pain subsides, but usually does not disappear completely. Neck pain is often associated with headaches or tension headaches caused by tense neck muscles.
The pain is continuous, uninterrupted and extremely unpleasant, but those affected can still pursue their professional activity.
What are the causes of neck muscle pain?
- According to the stories of my patients, the most common poor posture occurs as follows:
- The screen of the PC is positioned to the left of the body, so the head is rotated all day.
- The phone is trapped between your shoulder and neck while you’re behind the wheel or working at the computer.
- Sitting at the desk without leaning against the backrest, but always in a slightly forward-leaning posture.
- Incorrect sitting position: “lounging”.
- The screen of the PC is too low and the head must be bent forward to see better.
- Sleeping in a supine position with two pillows, the head is bent forward in this way throughout the night.
- Hours of guitar playing without a strap.
- Headballs in football.
In the case of mothers, the breastfeeding position is added in the first months after birth; if the upper body and neck are curved for a long time, neck pain may arise; here, a pillow placed over the legs can help to raise the baby so that the mother does not have to bend forward.
In addition to poor posture, visual and hearing defects can also change the position of the neck: those who suffer from myopia stretch their neck forward; those who hear poorly turn their heads so that the ear with good hearing is directed towards the interlocutor.
What can be done with aching neck muscles? What does the treatment look like?
Inflammation-related pain and pain caused by muscle tension and contractures must be distinguished.
An acute inflammation in the neck area is treated only by sparing, in the post-acute and chronic stage heat can help, but the problem can not be solved simply with a hot water bottle. An alternative to the (often driven to the point of abuse) intake of medication in these rather rare cases is laser therapy; it has an anti-inflammatory, muscle-relaxing, analgesic and decongestant effect and few contraindications: pregnancy, tuberculosis and cancer.
Pain caused by muscle contractures is much more common, especially in young people; here, too, warmth brings relief; the best form of treatment is therapeutic massage, which usually significantly improves mobility without pain after the first three applications.
The physiotherapist often combines therapeutic massage with another form of therapy: manual traction; In this case, the neck is put under tensile stress, the tension is held for at least 30 seconds and then released very slowly. This technique increases the space between the vertebrae and the patient feels a pleasant feeling of relaxation and lightness in the neck and head region.
It is also possible to use neuromuscular tapes or kinesio tapes, which are elastic adhesive bandages that are often used in sports medicine; they are attached to the muscle base and are intended to relieve pain, relax the muscles and provide support. Depending on the appropriate tensile stress, muscle cramping on one side of the neck or shoulder can be reduced, whereby the muscles on the opposite side are activated. The only negative aspect in this case is aesthetic: the colored strip of pavement on the neck is clearly visible throughout the day.
Unfortunately, the massage result does not last forever: if you suffer from neck pain due to poor posture, you should use lumbar support when sitting and neck support when sleeping, which are available from orthopaedic specialist shops; the lumbar roller supports the treatment results, an exercise program that should be carried out regularly at least three times a week is useful.
How to prevent neck muscle pain?
For posture-related neck pain, therapeutic massage can be used in both the acute and chronic stages. It is very helpful to sleep in the supine or lateral position, because the neck muscles remain tense all night long in the prone position, which causes painful contractures.