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Understanding and managing neck pain - Blog banner image
Sahail Malik11 Jun 20244 min read

Understanding and managing neck pain

Neck pain is an all too common complaint arising from various factors, from muscle strain to stress. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to rehabilitation, we asked Sahail, a senior physiotherapist at UFIT, to shed some light on common causes of neck pain and how you can effectively manage and prevent it.

Understanding your neck

Your neck and back are comprised of vertebrae, small bones tightly stacked atop each other to form your spinal column. This is (literally) the backbone of your body, supporting your head and protecting your spinal cord.

The uppermost part of your spinal column is the cervical vertebrae (cervical spine), comprising seven bones that make up your neck. These are connected by tiny facet joints that allow your head to move in all directions.

Located between each vertebrae are intervertebral discs, cushion-like structures that act as shock absorbers and help with flexibility.

Common causes

Neck pain can occur from injury to the intervertebral discs, nerve injury, strained muscles, sprained joints, or even stress-related tension. While the causes are numerous, you’ll be happy to hear they’re not often serious.

Let our physiotherapists help alleviate your pain and discomfort

However, there are symptoms you must watch out for that do warrant urgent medical attention. Alongside neck pain, if you ever experience a loss of bladder or bowel control, any odd sensations between your thighs, or intense pain running down your arms and into your hands, you should seek a medical assessment.

The importance of movement

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all approach” to rehabilitating neck pain, however, movement is universally important to relieving it.

While there’s no ideal posture to prevent neck pain, prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to stiffness and tension in your neck muscles due to posture–slouching or craning the neck forward, which places undue strain on the cervical spine.

The advice to help relieve this is deceptively simple. Studies have shown that alternating between seated and standing positions every 15 minutes can significantly reduce the risk of neck pain–so move more and move often!

If you want to take neck pain relief to the next level, our favourite exercises include cervical rotation, cervical lateral flexion, thread the needle, open book, banded T, and banded shrug. You can see demonstrations of all these exercises on our YouTube.

Stay active

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A sedentary lifestyle won’t just lead to worse overall fitness levels, but it can also lead to weakened neck muscles, which will increase the chances of neck pain.

Leading a more active lifestyle is crucial if you want to reduce the occurrence of aches and pains. While any amount of activity is better than none, we recommend at least 120 minutes of low-intensity cardio weekly. This can be achieved through a couple of hour-long sessions weekly or 20–30 minutes walking daily.

It’s also beneficial to incorporate regular muscular training into your routine, such as weight or functional training. This will help build and maintain overall musculoskeletal health.

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Other changes you can make

Making lifestyle changes to reduce the incidence of neck pain involves more than just staying active; it encompasses many other aspects of daily living, environment, and habits. Here are some additional adjustments you can consider:

  • Stress reduction techniques: Stress often manifests physically, so incorporating mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga in your weekly routine can help alleviate stress-related tension and muscle stiffness.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking not only damages your overall health but also affects your bone structure, accelerates disc disease, and hinders the healing process.
  • Adjust your sleep position: Maintaining a good posture while sleeping by using supportive pillows ensures your head and neck are aligned with your body. If you sleep on your back, use a pillow to support your head and consider placing another pillow under your knees to relieve pressure on the lower back. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach with your head turned.
  • Avoid carrying heavy weights on your shoulders: Frequently carrying heavy bags can strain both your neck and shoulders. If you need to carry heavier loads, opt for a bag that distributes weight evenly across both shoulders or luggage with wheels.

Seeking professional help

In our Circle of Care, we have built a comprehensive programme incorporating multiple specialist services that work together for you.

Our physiotherapists can create tailored rehabilitation plans and provide expert guidance to help you regain mobility, alleviate pain, and prevent a recurrence. Our trainers can collaborate with you on a routine to strengthen your muscles and help you enjoy a pain-free and active lifestyle. And, if stress is an issue for you, our breathwork classes combine breathing techniques and hypnosis to help you rewire your brain and release trapped tension and trauma.

Persistent neck pain should not be ignored. If you experience ongoing discomfort or pain in the neck, you should seek professional help promptly.



Sahail Malik

Sahail had worked with players from various football codes during his varsity days as a sports medical trainer. He is currently the physiotherapist for the Singapore Taekwondo Federation. Outside of physiotherapy, Sahail practices submission grappling and represented Singapore in the 2018 Southeast Asian Championship.