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Disc irritation, protrusion or herniation can cause neck pain.  The disc is a structure which sits between the vertebrae of the spine.  The discs act as shock absorbers, and allow the neck to move.

Consult your Doctor

Immediate assessment must be sought if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Bilateral pins and needles in arms and legs

  • Disturbance to normal bladder, bowel, or sexual function

  • Problems walking normally

  • Associated unexplained weight loss

  • Severe night pain unrelated to movement

Signs & Symptoms

  • Centrally located pain (but can also be on one side or both)

  • Aggravated with movement, especially prolonged flexion (reading)

  • Possible pins and needles

  • Possible referral of pain to the shoulder blade or down the arm

  • Altered power and reflexes of upper limbs

  • Neural irritation (e.g. increase in symptoms in driving, or chin to chest position)

  • Muscle spasm

  • Aggravated by coughing or sneezing

What Causes It?

  • Prolonged sitting/driving due to sedentary job and lifestyle

  • Joint stiffness

  • Trigger points within surrounding muscles (upper traps, scalene, sternocleidomastoid muscles)

  • Increased neural tension

  • Poor activation and weakness of  deep neck core stabilising muscles

  • Poor posture

How to Self Manage

  • Reduce pain and inflammation with medication provided by your doctor or recommended by your pharmacist

  • Use ice to reduce pain and inflammation if the injury has occurred in the last 2 days.  Otherwise if it is chronic heat can be used to reduce pain and relax muscle spasm

  • Avoid aggravating activities (prolonged sitting, reading, computer use)

  • Rest in a position of comfort.

  • Returning to normal activities (within pain limits) is advised as soon as possible to prevent long term habits of avoiding normal activities due to fear of pain and injury.


X-ray is warranted if there has been trauma such as a severe whiplash, and fracture is suspected.

MRI and CT are the most useful investigations for suspected disc involvement.

How Physio Helps

Neck pain is often a scary to experience.  Therefore, your physiotherapist will thoroughly question you to determine the specific source of your neck pain, and identify various contributing factors which led to its onset

If the pain is not being managed, they may refer you to your GP for pain relief medication.  Investigation may or may not be required.

Treatment can include:

  • Joint mobilisation

  • Massage and trigger point release

  • Pilates education

  • Prescription of exercises for range of movement, strengthening and stability

  • Acupuncture and/or dry needling

  • Electrotherapy

  • Taping

  • Cervical longitudinal traction

  • Assessment of posture and advice on improvement or correction

  • Review and modification of exercise or lifestyle activities

  • Ergonomic/workstation set-up assessment and review

  • Neural mobilisation

For an online consultation click here
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