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Why does my neck hurt?

Neck complaints are very common. It can sometimes be concerning if it is very sore, but it is rarely because of anything serious. The neck is built to be very strong and is good at its job of holding the weight of your head and moving normally. It is very difficult to damage.


Will I get better?

Most neck complaints will improve with time and some simple steps to help yourself. At times it might not feel that your neck can get better, but very few people need any extra care than the steps below.


What can I do to help myself?

The best advice is to continue to use your neck as normally as you can. It may be sensible to make some adjustments to what you do with your neck whilst it is sore, but it is important to know that using your neck is safe and the right thing to do.


What else can I do?

Exercise, particularly movement and strengthening exercises, are the best medicine for most aches and pains including necks, even very sore necks. Exercise can be anything that challenges your muscles and joints and does not need to mean going to the gym or the swimming pool, as not everyone enjoys these things.

Some ideas of suitable exercises are provided below.

Using heat can often be useful for uncomfortable necks. A hot water bottle wrapped in a towel is often a quick and easy way to try this. Some neck issues cause problems at night, therefore looking at how many pillows you are using can be of help. There is no ideal number of pillows to use, simply use the right number to make your neck feel comfortable.


But my neck is sore, should I really be using it and doing exercise?

Yes. You are safe to exercise and use your neck despite the fact that it might be a bit uncomfortable and might even be making some noise whilst you are exercising. Necks that make noises are normal and are safe to use. Often, if you start avoiding things that you find difficult, it becomes more challenging to help your neck.


What about an X-ray or scan?

Interestingly, in most cases, having an X-ray or a scan is not useful in helping your neck get better. Of course, in certain situations they are important and necessary, but often the results will show you things that are meant to be there or are normal for the age of your neck. That might mean that in a number of cases, what the X-ray shows is not really related to why your neck might be sore, which is why your GP or physio may have said that they might not be needed.


I still feel that I need some help.

If your neck is still causing you issues and you feel you would like to seek some help with our physiotherapy team, you can refer yourself without needing a GP referral.

Top exercise ideas

Here are a selection of exercises that are most useful for helping neck complaints. 

Exercise A

Sitting or standing: Slowly and gradually, look down to the floor. To increase the stretch, place your hands on the back of your head and gently pull down.

Exercise B

Sitting or standing. Slowly and gradually, turn your head to look over your shoulder.

Exercise C

Sitting or standing. Place a hand on your cheek. Try to look over your shoulder whilst resisting with your hand. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds.

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