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Neck pain: what are the causes of neck pain?


Neck pain, a medical term used to designate neck pain, is a common symptom, affecting between 30 and 50% of the general population. What are the causes of this pain, and how are they treated in physiotherapy?

What is neck pain?

We speak of cervicalgia to designate the pain present in the cervical vertebrae, that is to say the neck. In some cases, the Neck pain may radiate to the bottom of the skull or down one arm. The majority of these pains are benign, and disappear within a few days or weeks. That said, some people suffer from chronic or persistent neck pain , with pain that has been present for several months or years, sometimes without any apparent cause. We speak of chronic neck pain when the symptom has been present for at least 6 months.


Neck pain has no age limit, and can affect all patient profiles: young or old, active or sedentary, men and women. According to the Haute Autorité de Santé* , the prevalence of this pain is higher in women aged 35 to 49.


In the absence of treatment and in the event of persistent pain, neck pain can be very disabling: some patients need frequent sick leave and are hampered in daily activities such as driving. Hence the importance of determining the cause of the pain , to begin appropriate treatment.

What are the factors that cause neck pain?

There are 3 main types of neck pain , depending on their cause or context of appearance:


  • Common or non-specific neck pain

  • Traumatic neck pain, generally caused by “whiplash”

  • And finally symptomatic neck pain, which is the consequence of an underlying pathology.

Common neck pain can affect young or elderly people. In general, in young people, it is the consequence of poor posture , for example at work, or muscular tension linked to stress. In the elderly, cervical osteoarthritis is most often the cause. Finally, whatever the age of the patient, neck pain can come from torticollis , which is a contracture caused by a wrong movement.


Bad posture remains the main factor in the appearance of neck pain: whether at work, during leisure or during sleep.


How does physiotherapy treat neck pain?

The majority of neck pain is effectively treated with physiotherapy. Of course, in the event of an underlying disease, it is the treatment of this which will help relieve the pain. The objective of physiotherapy in cases of neck pain is twofold: to release tension to reduce symptoms, and to strengthen the neck muscles to prevent their reappearance.


This support is based on varied and complementary techniques, in particular:


  • Relaxing neck massages , which provide immediate relief

  • Physiotherapy (ultrasound, electrotherapy), very effective in reducing pain

  • Active and passive mobilizations, which allow you to regain optimal neck mobility

  • Muscle strengthening of the neck, thanks to specific exercises.

  • At the same time, the physiotherapist advises his patient on the corrections to be made to his posture, corrections which may require an adaptation of the workstation.

Jérôme Auger’s advice to avoid neck pain

Although common, neck pain is not inevitable. Here are some tips to follow to avoid this pain:

  • Adapt your workstation, by adjusting the height of the chair and the screen

  • Take regular breaks if you work seated

  • Take advantage of this to stretch your neck, back, but also legs and arms

  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach, a very bad position for the neck

  • Practice regular physical activity

  • Reduce stress, a factor of muscle tension.

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