Neck problems

Neck problems can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • pain, which may go down your arm
  • stiffness
  • pins and needles, or numbness in your arm/hand

You don't normally need to see a healthcare professional. New onset or flare-up of a longstanding neck problem should begin to settle within 6 weeks.

What causes neck problems?

Neck problems are normally caused by an accident, wear and tear or poor posture. They can also start for no obvious reason.

Neck problems are rarely due to any serious disease or damage.

Can this cause problems anywhere else?

Your neck problem can sometimes cause hot, burning, shooting, or stabbing in your shoulders or into one or both of your arms. This can be due to nerve pain.

Neck pain can also cause headaches.

Self-help

Keeping active is an essential part of your treatment and recovery and is the single best thing you can do for your health.

Being physically active throughout your recovery can:

  • prevent a recurrence of the problem
  • maintain your current levels of fitness – even if you have to modify what you normally do, any activity is better than none
  • keep your other muscles and joints strong and flexible
  • help you aim for a healthy body weight

It's recommended you stay at or return to work as quickly as possible during your recovery. You don't need to be pain or symptom-free to return to work.

More about keeping active

Pain treatments

The following can help to reduce the pain:

  • Pain medication - this can help you move more comfortably, which can help your recovery
  • Heat packs

Speak to your community pharmacist or other healthcare professional about taking medication. It's important to take medication regularly.

More about taking painkillers

Resting or moving?

After a neck problem you should:

  • keep moving, even if you move slowly at first
  • move your neck for short periods every hour
  • change positions regularly where ever you are - try to find a position that reduces any pains you may have in your neck and/or arm(s)
  • try to stay active but remember not to carry out activities which aggravate any pains you may have in your neck and/or arm(s)
  • check your pillow isn't too firm or your mattress too soft - this can make your neck problem worse
  • do whatever you normally would and stay at, or return to work - this is important and the best way to get better

Use of a collar isn't recommended.

When to speak to a health professional

Speak to your GP as soon as possible if you:

  • feel numbness, pins and needles or weakness in one or both arms that's getting worse
  • have problems with your balance or walking since your neck pain started
  • develop blurred vision, ringing in your ears or dizziness that doesn't go away within 48 hours

Help and support

If, after following the above advice, your neck problem hasn't improved within 6 weeks a referral to a physiotherapist may be of benefit.

If available in your health board area, the Musculoskeletal (MSK) Helpline can refer you to a healthcare professional if you need it.