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Got a pain in the neck? Here’s what you can do about it…


A pain in the neck – we’ve all had one of those recently. But on this occasion, we’re not talking about a dodgy Wi-Fi connection or home schooling children – but *actual* pain, discomfort and stiffness in your neck area.

It has been well reported that over the past year, due to more people working from home and doing less exercise, there has been an increase in the numbers of people suffering from neck and back pain. At The Holly, we certainly know this to be true. We’ve definitely seen an increase in our Physiotherapy Department of patients presenting with neck and back complaints.

There are a number of reasons for the increase. People are moving less as they work from home and they are staring at their phone and laptop screens for much longer. A sedentary and inactive lifestyle will contribute to neck and back pain. There’s also a link between stress, anxiety and muscle and joint pain.

Break the cycle!

It paints a bleak picture, but we know if you want something to change… then you need to change!

As we move into Spring and the days continue to get longer, it’s a good idea to try and get outside each day for some exercise and fresh air. There are also many free online exercise videos to follow, from Joe Wicks and his PE workouts to a more gentle Pilates or Yoga class. Just remember: if it is a new activity for you, start slowly and build up your tolerance to new movements. You’ll have much better success that way, and also reduce the risk of injury.

Spine, movement and activity

Although big bursts of activity are important for your health, when it comes to your spine, it’s good to be active throughout the day. Your spine does not like to stay still!

If you work at a computer desk all day, it’s a good idea to review your desk set-up. Ensure your monitor is at eye-level and make sure you’re not straining to reach the mouse or keyboard. All these movements throughout the day add up so make sure you’re comfortable. It’s also important to add that recent research shows that moving regularly is actively much more beneficial than your chair or keyboard position – so again – do take the time to get up and about, preferably outside if you can.

Set an alarm to take a few minutes every half an hour or so away from your desk, to get yourself a drink, put some washing in the machine or whatever it is to get you to move. Research shows that taking regular breaks also improves concentration and overall productivity, so there really is no excuse to not move more during your working day.

Feeling discomfort? Try these simple exercises

If you are feeling discomfort in your neck or shoulders, a few specific exercises can help to relieve tension and get you back to yourself. See the following videos.

Exercise one: shoulder shrugs

Exercise two: chin tuck 

Exercise three: neck stretch

Other tips and tricks to relieve common discomfort

There are other things you can try to relieve discomfort and pain in the neck and shoulder area. Using ice and heat packs can bring some relief. You can put these on for 15 minutes before doing some gentle stretches on your neck.

Another option – if the exercise and heat/ice method doesn’t work – is to take Ibruprofen or Paracetomol, or use Ibruprofen gel. Read the package information to ensure they’re safe for you to take, and check with a doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure.

Also consider your sleeping position. Using a supportive pillow to help with your spine position, can also be beneficial to help relief pain. It is advised to avoid sleeping on your tummy, as your head is forced to turn to one side. This can contribute to pain and discomfort, so try to change your habit if you’re used to sleeping on your front.

Look after your mental health

Make sure you take time for yourself. It is really hard at the moment, with uncertainty around work, schooling, socialising and being so restricted over our daily lives.

Try to take time to do something you enjoy doing, whether its listening to music, a Zoom quiz or a relaxing bath. Staying connected to people and talking about how you feel can really help and make sure you get further support if you feel you need it. Charities such as Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and Samaritans have been doing a great job, and are a super source of information.

When to seek help

If you’ve tried these methods without success and you are still experiencing pain or you develop other symptoms such as headaches, arm pain, pins and needles, weakness in your arms and legs or temperature changes, seek further advice from a health professional.

The Holly – exceptional physiotherapy care

At The Holly, a Physiotherapy appointment typically takes 45 minutes, where you will be asked some questions alongside a physical examination to determine the cause of your pain. We will work with you to put together a personalised treatment plan to help improve your symptoms and get you back to everything you enjoy. This will normally involve a specific home exercise programme and if needed hands on treatment or acupuncture. If required, we can refer you onto our colleagues for further investigation.

So remember, if you have a pain in the neck, take these steps to look after your body and be kind to yourself. It is what we all need at the moment!

Anna Coulson

Deputy Physiotherapy Manager

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