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Sharron asked...

Neck and shoulders ache

I have had an issue with my neck and shoulders for a while. I can't fully turn my head round to the right and it's even more restricted turning to the left. My neck aches at the back, as do my shoulders - which often click when I rotate. What is the best treatment - massage therapy or physio?

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The answer

Back pain and neck pain are one of the highest reasons for people to take absence from work. It can be very tiring and debilitating.

Back and neck pain can occur by performing tasks in an awkward way, through injury as well as through wear and tear. Back and neck pain can result in muscle injury and also through displacement of the spinal disc or the trapping of nerves.

Initial treatment often involves combinations of analgesia, rest and then exercise as well as treating with ice and heat packs.

When one sustains an injury to the back posture becomes altered and this can then exacerbate the symptoms you experience such as pain and restricted movement.Analgesia that can be taken includes Paracetamol and Ibuprofen based products either orally or topically providing you take them according to manufacturer instructions and have no drug allergy to these. The use of a TENS machine can also be helpful as this can ease discomfort through nerve stimulation as opposed to medication.

Seeing a physiotherapist can help as teaching you to correct posture by means of exercises, strengthening core muscle tone and exercises to help regain movement can help ease or correct the cause of pain.

Osteopaths and Chiropractors can also help as they manipulate your bones and muscles therefore helping to improve the body alignment. Keeping active and avoiding not moving your head and arms will mean that your core muscles will not weaken or becoming overly tight.

Losing some excess weight and aiming to improve your overall posture will also help with muscle tone. Another way to ease some discomfort is by ensuring that your mattress and pillow are supportive when you rest and that you do not overly stretch your neck whilst sleeping. Massage can be helpful as this can help ease tension build up in your shoulders.

We would recommend visiting your GP to discuss the issues you are having as it is important to seek a medical opinion and to rule out muscle or spinal injury such as slipped discs. Your GP will be able to assess your range of movement and assess for nerve entrapment.

Your GP if he feels it is appropriate can then send you for further investigations such as X-rays and MRI scans to rule out pinched nerves and other injuries.

It would also be advisable to see your GP prior to visiting other practitioners to ensure that these therapies will not exacerbate the issue. You may well find too that the GP may refer you on for physiotherapy treatment themselves.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

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