Does posture play a part in my neck pain?

Yes – Prolonged sitting, whether at work or at home, can certainly contribute to neck pain and stiffness persisting. Slouched sitting postures or when you’re continually looking down can lead to greater muscle tension in the neck and shoulder region.
It is essential that you regularly change your position, move your neck in different directions and get up from your desk if at work at frequent intervals throughout the day. So make sure you set yourself a reminder to get up and move around every hour if you’re sitting at work all day.
Check out this video for ideas on postural exercises for neck pain.

Do I need painkillers for my neck pain?

Painkillers may be necessary for a short period if neck pain is severe although this will not speed up your recovery.
They should only be used in conjunction with other measures, such as exercise, and even then just as a short-term option as they can bring side effects.
Exercise, which is safer and cheaper, is considered the preferred option. Movement is the best medicine for neck pain!

Can I exercise with neck pain?

Yes, absolutely! Exercise and activity reduces and prevents neck pain. Exercise is shown to be very helpful for tackling neck pain and is also the most effective strategy to prevent future episodes.

Start slowly and build up both the amount and intensity of what you do and don’t worry if it’s sore to begin with – you won’t be damaging your neck.

No one type of exercise is proven to be more effective than others so just pick an exercise you enjoy, that you can afford to maintain in the long-term and that fits in with your daily schedule.

Do I need a scan to diagnose my neck pain?

You rarely need a scan and it can do more harm than good. This is because seeing perfectly normal changes to their spine related to age which are not predictive of neck pain can cause people to avoid the activities they should be doing to get better, such as exercise and movement in general.
Studies have shown that a scan does not show the exact reason for neck pain in 95% of cases and will not guide further management.
However, there are extremely rare cases of neck pain where immediate medical advice and need for scanning may be required. See Further Support section for the list of symptoms associated with neck pain that might require you to see you GP sooner.

Should I rest or stop activity if I have neck pain?

No – Scientific studies now indicate prolonged rest and avoidance of activity for people with neck pain actually leads to higher levels of pain, greater disability, poorer recovery and longer absence from work.
In the first few days of a new episode of neck pain, avoiding aggravating activities may help to relieve pain. However, staying as active as possible and returning to all usual activities gradually is actually important in aiding recovery – this includes staying in work where possible.
While it is normal to move differently and more slowly in the first few days of having neck pain, this altered movement can be unhealthy if continued in the long-term.

Will exercise make my pain worse?

Listen to your body. It is beneficial to find a type of exercise that you can continue to do. It is safe to work through a low level of pain. If a particular type of exercise is too painful then reduce or avoid this activity initially.

My x-rays show I have osteoarthritis – does this mean it is bad?

There is a poor link between changes visible on x-ray and symptoms of osteoarthritis. You can be in lots of pain but have minimal changes on x-ray and vice versa. Changes seen on X-ray does not mean you have to stop being active – Keeping active can help knee pain.

Do I need an x-ray for my osteoarthritis?

An x-ray is not necessary to diagnose arthritis. It is only needed if you are going to have joint replacement surgery. An x-ray can be useful if it is not obvious if the knee joint is contributing to your symptoms and your symptoms are lasting longer than 3 months.

I have osteoarthritis; do I need a joint replacement?

Most people will never need a joint replacement and can manage their symptoms conservatively.

Will I need surgery for my back pain?

Surgery is rarely needed.

There are some uncommon back conditions where there is pressure on the nerves that supply the legs and the patient gets leg symptoms, such as pain, pins and needles or numbness. For these conditions, surgery can help the leg symptoms but it is important to understand that it is not always required.

You also need to know that on average, the results for back surgery are no better in the medium and long term than non-surgical interventions, such as exercise.

So a non-surgical option, which includes exercise and activity, should always come first.

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