Physiotherapy and Neck Pain

Physiotherapy and Neck Pain

What causes neck pain?

The onset of neck pain may be associated with traumatic events, such as whiplash injuries or sports trauma, or it may have a gradual onset not associated with any obvious triggering event.

Although rare, neck pain may be caused by serious pathology such as tumors, infections or damage to the arteries in the cervical region,  More commonly, neck pain is associated with disorders of the cervical musculoskeletal system including the intervertebral discs (principal joint between two vertebrae in the spinal column), ligaments, muscles and joints.  Pins- and-needles and numbness are symptoms associated with irritation or compression of the cervical nerves and are often felt in the arms, hands and fingers.  This is known as ‘radiculopathy’ or ‘radicular pain’.

In some cases, the cause of the neck pain is able to be identified during a clinical examination with a physiotherapist.  However, in many cases the exact cause of the pain is unclear and these cases are known as ‘non-specific pain’.  This does not necessarily mean that there is no physical problem, rather a simple source cannot be reliably identified.  Physiotherapy is still appropriate and effective for helping treat non-specific neck pain.

It is important to acknowledge that neck pain is not merely a signal that there is a problem with, or damage to the structures in the cervical spine.  Emotional state, social factors and past experiences all can play a significant role in the pain experience.  Sleep disturbance, anxiety, stress levels and immune system dysfunction can influence neck pain and in turn, can adversely affect the pain experience, potentially setting up a reoccurring cycle that may lead to chronic or persistent pain.

How can physiotherapy help?

Our physiotherapists will perform a comprehensive interview to identify your symptoms and how you neck pain affects your activity levels and quality of life.  A skilled examination will identify musculoskeletal problems that might be a cause of, or a contributing factor to your neck pain.  The physiotherapist will screen you for non-musculoskeletal causes of your pain and refer you for a medical assessment if required.  They will also take into account your personal situation, your goals and what understanding you have of your neck condition.


Physiotherapy for neck pain involves evidence-based treatment options which are non-pharmaceutical and non-surgical in nature.  A physiotherapist will work with you to explore possible interventions and work out what treatment type is best for you and your specific condition.  This may include ‘hands-on’ treatments or an exercise program to reduce pain, improve flexibility and strength and regain normal neck function.  Work and lifestyle advice may be an important part of your treatment.  Our physiotherapists will be able to answer your questions and clarify any confusing advice you may have received about your neck condition. 

To book an appointment with Michael Dessen or Kathryn Barry, please call 9634 7788.