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Neck Pain

The neck is made up of 7 vertebrae that support the skull and allow us to turn, bend, straighten and tilt our heads sideways. Spaces between the vertebrae allow the spinal cord to pass from the brain and supplies sensation and power throughout the body.

It is possible to have referred pain from the neck which can often radiate down the arm and this can go into the fingers or thumb depending on the area affected. Often with this you may experience pins and needles or numbness and this is a sign that a nerve may be irritated. Pain may also be felt at the back of the neck or radiating into the muscles around the upper shoulders.

If you have had trauma to your head/neck or symptoms such as dizziness, problems speaking or swallowing, drop attacks, nausea, visual disturbance or numbness then please self-refer to be assessed in person.

What can I do to help?

Pain relief:

Simple painkillers (like paracetamol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, NSAIDS, (like ibuprofen) are available over the counter and can be very effective but don’t use them for more than 2 weeks without seeking medical advice. You should carefully read the Patient Information Leaflet that is provided with this medication. 

It is advisable to consult your GP or pharmacist before taking additional pain relief if you are currently:

·         taking any form of medication

·         have any other pre-existing medical conditions

·         pregnant

Ice or heat: If your neck is painful then applying an ice pack, hot water bottle or gels may be helpful for reducing pain. A packet of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel works well as an ice pack. Leave the peas in place for up to 20 minutes at a time. This can be repeated several times a day. If using gels then check with your GP or Pharmacist if you have other health conditions/medications which may prevent this.

Reducing the strain on your neck: It is usually best to carry out your normal activities, but try not to overdo it. You need to pace yourself to start with and try to do a bit more each day.

Rest: Aim for a balance between rest and exercise to prevent your neck from stiffening up. Try to avoid the movements that are most painful. However, it’s important to remain generally active even if you have to limit how much you do.

Exercise: Exercise is often a helpful treatment for neck pain and will give the joint strength and flexibility. Below are a few exercises to try for your neck. They should not aggravate your pain whilst you perform them, if they do, do not push through the pain.

A little post exercise discomfort is not uncommon and not a sign of damage. If you experience pain that regularly lasts for more than 30 minutes after exercise and feel that overall your pain is worsening please stop all exercises and seek advice from the physiotherapy department.

Exercises to try:

Neck Side Flexions

Neck SF

Neck Side Flexions

Starting in a neutral position

Gently tip your ear across towards your shoulder until you feel a pulling

Hold for a few seconds then return to starting position and repeat


Neck Rotations

Neck Rotation

Neck Rotations

Begin in a neutral position

Turn your head to look over one shoulder, keeping the rest of your body still

Return to starting position and repeat 

(This can be sitting or lying down)


Neck Retractions

Neck Retraction

Neck Retractions

Start in a neutral position

Try to bring your chin in towards you without moving your head up or down

Think of this as if making a double chin 

Hold for a few seconds then relax and repeat

(This can be done sitting or lying on your pillow)


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