Ignoring the pain
When patients come to us with neck muscle pain, they often say that they’ve had the pain for weeks, months or years. They tend to ignore the pain, especially when it’s caused by working on a computer, because the work needs to get done. By the time they come to see us the muscles around their neck and shoulders have compensated in various ways, trying to get away from the pain. Rather get it diagnosed & avoid lengthy rehab.
Stopping treatment too soon
Another big problem we see is that patients stop their treatment when their pain starts to improve. Physiotherapy treatment is a process and your pain won’t be fixed in one session. You may feel a lot of relief after treatment, but it is crucial that you finish the rehabilitation process – mobilizing tight areas, strengthening weak areas and correcting the compensation patterns you have learnt over time. If you don’t finish the course of treatment the pain will always come back. Before you stop treatment we need to do a final clearance of your neck. This means that we will load the joints and muscles to make sure that your neck muscle strain has healed and your neck is strong enough to manage the load of everyday activities.
Using a neck brace
If your neck muscle pain is severe you may decide to use a soft collar or neck brace to relieve the pain. This will give you temporary relief, because it takes the load off of the pulled muscles in your neck. Unfortunately, it will also cause further muscle weakness – muscles work on a principle of “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. This muscle weakness will lead to even more compensation and, when you stop wearing the brace, your pain will be worse than before as the weakened muscles have to start taking the load again – simply swapping one kind of stiffness for another.
A neck muscle strain doesn’t heal on its own unless you change or take away what caused the injury in the first place. Muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory medication can give you temporary relief from the pain, but it is only a way to mask the problem. Once the medication wears off the pain will come back.
Deep tissue massage
Going for a deep massage at a beauty salon or Thai spa. Be careful; it can be useful, but may make your neck pain even worse. In this case harder and deeper is not better. Physiotherapists train for years to understand the anatomy and complexity of your neck. First the problem must be identified, then treatment can be prescribed. You don’t want to pour boiling water onto a open wound.
Seeing a chiropractor to “align your spine”
Your neck will feel stiff with a neck muscle strain, but it isn’t because your spine is “out of alignment”. The stiffness is caused by muscle spasm trying to protect your neck from further damage. An adjustment to your neck can make the pain of your neck muscle strain worse, because the technique takes your neck into extreme ranges that will put further strain on your injury.
Another problem we see with is when people keep on stretching a pulled muscle in their neck because it feels “stiff”. This stiffness is a protective mechanism of the muscles surrounding your injury to protect the strained muscle. Therefore, stretching does more bad than good. You will be better off doing slow controlled muscle contractions