The experienced Physiotherapist can see patterns develop that can allude to a diagnosis which is often proven correct even before physical assessment. The explanation of the pain along with the person’s history and presentation can fit a pattern that 99% of the time gives you the answer. Here are two common presentations that might sound familiar.
The desk worker with an ‘ache’ in the neck, usually RIGHT sided. The pain gets worse towards the end of the day. It is often moderate and patients bear it for months before finally coming to physio. In the acute phase it can cause headaches and pain into the arm.
This is due to low tone of muscles in the scapular area. The muscles ‘KNOT’ up in an attempt to create some tone to remain functional. The freedom for the cervical joints to move easily can be restricted by imbalanced muscle tension. The problem is fixed with toning of those muscles and will ease with medication.
The arthritic neck with ‘stiffness’ and occasional ‘catching’ with movements; usually rotation. Often worse in the mornings and getting better during the day, this is usually reserved for the over 50’s age group! The client usually has a long history of stiffness. The joints in the neck are not moving well as they can be considered ‘RUSTY’. How do you help a rusty joint? MOVE IT.
This neck requires more hands on treatment to mobilise that joint in the forwards, lateral and rotational planes. Some medications can be effective and should be used in acute cases as an ADJUNCT to a physical approach.
Remember that you are actually doing yourself a favour by seeking conservative treatment before medication. Medication may be what you are tempted to try but education regarding the cause of the issue can result in a more satisfied outcome and avoidance of the ‘quick fix’.