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Neck Injuries

Neck injuries are often the source of any pain and discomfort felt in the neck. However they can vary greatly from fairly mild to extremely severe.


1) Stiff Neck/Wry Neck

The medical term for Stiff Neck or Wry Neck is Acute Torticollis. This is commonly an overuse injury, where on-going bad posture has resulted in a strain.

Those with this condition usually wake up with a stiff, sore neck or find that they cannot move their neck and head.

Usually this condition is mild and will clear up in a few days without medical intervention. However a physiotherapist may be consulted to rule out conditions such as Slipped disc which may cause neck pain. A neck pain pillow and soothing warm packs can help to ease discomfort.


2) Whiplash

Whiplash is a term used to describe a neck injury which occurs when the neck moves suddenly forwards, backwards or sideways. Car accidents are associated with this neck injury, because even mild collisions can cause the sudden unnatural motion which sprains the ligaments and tendons in the neck.

Whiplash typically results in pain, stiffness and loss of movement in the neck. Headaches, pain in the shoulders and arms and muscle spasms, may also be present.

Physiotherapy is an effective treatment for Whiplash and is usually combined with prescribed pain relieving medication. Cases of Whiplash may range from mild to severe. Mild cases usually take a few weeks to clear. The most severe cases, where the ligaments and tendons are considerably damaged, may take several months or even years to subside. Recovery can be aided in these cases by wearing a cervical collar such as the Bodymedics Mouldable Bead Collar  in the initial weeks after injury. These orthosis provide support and prevent further damage and muscle fatigue.


3) Slipped Disc

The medical term referring to a slipped disc in the neck, is Cervical Disc Prolapse. It is less common than a slipped disc occurring in the lower back, (see Back Injuries).

Between each vertebra (each bone that forms a part of the spinal column) is a soft disc filled with a jelly-like substance. These discs can slip out of place if degeneration of the outer layer of the disc occurs. Degeneration is caused by repeated stress and over use this might be due to frequent bad posture and the handling of heavy machinery/equipment.

Severe pain which may be felt in the neck, shoulders and arms, is a sign of a slipped disc in the neck. Muscle spasm is also common. Pain in the arms and a sensation of pins and needles in the hands occurs when the disc slips back and to the side and presses on a nerve root.

Treatment consists of rest and pain relieving medication. Wearing a soft cervical orthosis such as the Atlas CO is also very helpful in the early stages of this injury, because it helps to support the neck and restricts movement which could exacerbate symptoms.

Physiotherapy is effective during the later stages of healing, as it helps to mobilise the vertebra and restore proper movement.

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