The time immediately following a neck injury can be one of confusion and questions. Below are tips and suggestions on how to best manage your neck injuries in the early post-injury period.
The goal in the first one to two weeks is to control your pain and allow normal healing to take place.
Acute neck pain is due to mechanical forces that injure pain sensitive tissues to your spine. Physiotherapists use hands-on techniques to relieve the mechanical strain, control pain and allow the injured tissues to heal naturally.
Ice: To help control pain and swelling during the first few days you may apply an ice pack for 15 minutes every few hours.
Medication: Your doctor may suggest medication to help control pain. The two most common medications are anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen with codeine. Take these medications with food. If you experience stomach pains, stop the medication and seek medical advice.
Avoid poor sitting posture. Slumped sitting can significantly increase disc pressure and prolong your pain. A proper lumbar support can assist you to maintain good posture and reduce pain. Try to avoid prolonged car rides and unsupported couches and soft chairs.
At some point in the first two to four weeks you should start a graduated stretching program designed to recover your lost mobility. Stretches should be taken to the point of moderate tension, held for five to ten seconds and repeated in sets of ten. Try to perform several sets of ten throughout the day instead of many all at once. Exercises causing progressive worsening or spreading of pain should be stopped and reviewed by your Physiotherapist.
Bring your right ear towards your right shoulder. You can give gentle pressure with your right hand. Repeat with left ear to left shoulder.
Turn your head to the right to look over your right shoulder. You can give gentle pressure with your right hand on your cheek. Repeat to look over the left shoulder.
Upper Back Stretch
Link your hands together behind the neck while sitting. Gently life the elbows upwards towards the ceiling. Allow your upper back to stretch backwards. Don’t just lean back in the chair.
Self-help Do’s and Don’ts
- Find movements and/or positions that “centralize” the pain out of the arm and shoulders, back to the neck itself.
- Remain as active as possible. Go for a few short walks a day.
- Consult your Doctor. Your Physician will guide your recovery and prescribe appropriate medication and treatment.
- Remain in bed for prolonged periods.
- Use neck collars. (These should only be used for brief periods when prescribed by your Doctor or Physiotherapist.)
- Force movements through pain or perform movements and activities that cause pain to radiate down into the upper back and arm.
If you need more help
Accurate passive movement of the spine performed by a qualified practitioner such as a “Manipulative Physiotherapist” can help restore movement and regain normal function. Techniques used should be pain-free and used for brief periods to avoid long term dependence.
A graduated muscle conditioning program will assist the muscles to return to normal pain-free function. Resistance exercises should be moderate with a focus on endurance training. Kinesiologists are trained to establish and monitor these program under the supervision of a Physiotherapist. Progression to a home program or community fitness facility is the goal.
Return to Normal Life
The ultimate goal of care is for you to return to your normal life; work, home, social life and sport. An Occupational Therapist can assist you in a graduated return to normal activities. Pacing is a key component of recovery.