Physiotherapy for Neck Pain

Man with neck pain
Cervical spine anatomy
Neck pain treatment at Glebe Physio

Neck pain can be a debilitating and severely uncomfortable problem. Read below for answers to some common questions relating to neck pain. You can also find information on how our physiotherapists at Glebe Physio assess and treat this common problem.

Your neck is made up of 7 small bones (vertebrae) that are stacked on top of one another. These bones are separated by discs and surrounded by a number of different muscles. Your neck is very important as it supports your head and allows you to look at things around you.

Neck pain may result from many different factors. Your neck may be injured suddenly, such as in whiplash from a car accident or something heavy landing on your head. Neck pain can also develop over time, such as with postural issues or osteoarthritis.

Physiotherapy can help most conditions that lead to neck pain. It usually involves a combination of manual (hands-on) therapy such as massage, joint mobilisation or manipulation as well as exercise therapy, such as range of motion and strengthening. In some cases, physiotherapists will also use other forms of treatment such as acupuncture, taping and TENS.

Can neck pain cause symptoms in other parts of my body?

When you have pain in your neck, it is not uncommon to also get pain in your shoulder, upper back or arms. This is known as referred pain and happens when nerve signals get mixed-up on the way to your brain. These symptoms can lead to confusion about where the actual problem is located. Problems in the neck are also commonly associated with headache, which is a symptom that responds particularly well to physiotherapy treatment. In rare cases, neck pain that involves a nerve compression or irritation may also result in arm numbness or weakness. A physiotherapist is specially trained to assess all these symptoms and recommend treatment that is appropriate and effective.

Man with neck pain and referred pain
Man with whiplash pain

What is Whiplash and can physiotherapy help?

Whiplash is the commonly used term given to injuries that occur as a result of a jarring movement to the head and neck. The most common way that this occurs is in a motor-vehicle accident, but can also happen during some contact sports or as a result of a fall. These injuries are usually accompanied by pain and stiffness in the neck but can also cause headaches and pins-and-needles down the arms. In serious cases, there can be fractures in the bones of the neck, so it is always wise to be assessed by a physiotherapist or doctor as soon as possible after these types of injuries.

Physiotherapy treatment of whiplash associated disorders includes hands-on treatment to help reduce pain and restore motion; exercises to restore function; and muscle retraining to restore strength and endurance. Whiplash can persist for some time and be quite debilitating if not managed well. Therefore, getting advice early is always the best option.

What happens when I ‘slip a disc’ or get a disc ‘bulge’ in my neck?

A ‘slipped disc’ is a common misconception. Discs in your neck (and the rest of your spine) are quite firmly stuck in place by ligaments and are attached securely to the vertebrae. Discs do not move; however, you can occasionally damage them enough to cause them to ‘bulge’ or ‘herniate’ out at the edge, irritating the surrounding joints and nerves. This can cause pain and potentially lead to problems with the nerve roots of your spine, sometimes leading to the arm symptoms described above. In most cases, discs will heal with a combination of time and physiotherapy treatment. They rarely require other interventions such as surgery or injections.s


There are many other causes of neck pain too, so it is always a good idea to get advice from someone who knows what they’re doing. Someone like one of the physiotherapists here at Glebe Physio! If you have any questions, please get in touch via the Contact Us page or book in now for a consult.

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Please note that the information we provide on web pages like this one are for general information and educational purposes. We recommend speaking to a qualified physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to assess your individual situation.