Nonspecific neck pain / NSNP

If you have pain in your neck, chances are you are suffering from a common complaint known as unspecified neck pain. This is often posture-related but can sometimes be a sign of underlying conditions such as osteoarthritis. Read more about common causes of neckache, symptoms and treatment with exercises.

Finn Johannsen Specialist MD in rheumatology

What is Neck Pain?

Pain in the neck region is very common. About 40% of the adult population will experience this type of pain during their lifetime. Interestingly, it can have many different causes.

In most cases, the pain is not caused by a damaged structure such as your ligaments, bones or spinal discs. Most frequently, neck pain is caused by the muscles in the neck region working incorrectly. This can happen due to bad posture at your computer screen or in other sub-optimal postural positions.

Causes of Neck Pain

The most common causes of neck pain are:

  • Tight and sore neck muscles
  • Reduced or no mobility in one or more of the neck joints
  • Osteoarthritis or sprains in the neck.

Pain in the neck typically occurs due to heavy workload, monotonous or recurring movements at work, as well as stress, poor posture or impact trauma (eg caused by having to suddenly brake in traffic).

Symptoms of Neck Pain

Diffuse, as in spread out and rather unspecific, neck pain which can radiate down into one or both of your shoulders. Muscle tension may also occur and result in headaches. If you have a headache radiating from the neck due to muscle tension, it’s called a tension headache. Dizziness may also occur in some cases.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Neck Pain

Avoid hunching your neck while sitting down. Maintain a firm and straight posture when you sit and stand and make sure your computer screen is set at the right height. You should stretch tense muscles. Maintaining strength and balance in your neck is important as it will reduce the risk of relapse.

Keep your Neck Active

Keeping your neck active without irritating it. If you don’t keep your neck active, there’s a risk it might stiffen up and cause muscle tension. This could further exacerbate your neck pain.

Treat your Neck Pain with Simple Exercises

Performing simple exercises at home can be helpful. In the beginning, focus on increasing mobility in your neck with exercises that give you more control over your neck movements.

To achieve this, you should do exercises that will strengthen the small muscles stabilising your neck. For lasting results, you should gradually increase the difficulty and load of these exercises.

Exercises for Nonspecific neck pain / NSNP

  1. Head bend II

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    • Sit upright.
    • Bend your head forward as far as possible, then backwards as far as possible.
    • Repeat the movement 10 times in both directions.
  2. Head rotation with resistance I

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    • Keep your head in a neutral position.
    • Put one hand on top of the temple.
    • Use your neck muscles to counter the movement while you attempt to turn your head with your hand.
    • Your head should be kept still and directed forward.
    • Press for 5 seconds to the left and the right, repeat this 5 times.
  3. Stretch between shoulder blades
    30 sec. x 3 sets

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    • Sit on a chair.
    • Merge your fingers and place them under one knee.
    • Relax your shoulders, push your leg towards the floor and feel the stretch between your shoulder blades.
    • Then do the same with the opposite leg.
    • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and perform 3 repetitions with each leg.

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About the author

Finn Johannsen is a specialist MD of rheumatology with a diploma in sports and musculoskeletal medicine, as well as an award-winning specialist in rehabilitative treatment of sports and work-related injuries.