Approximately half of all individuals will experience a clinically important neck pain episode over the course of their lifetime. Mechanical neck pain commonly arises insidiously and is generally multifactorial in origin, including one or more of the following: poor posture, anxiety, depression, neck strain, and sporting or occupational activities. Additional risk factors contributing to neck pain include: trauma, genetics, sleep disorders, and sedentary lifestyle.
A direct pathoanatomic cause of mechanical neck pain is rarely identifiable. Although the cause of neck pain may be associated with degenerative processes or pathology identified during diagnostic imaging, the tissue that is causing a patient’s neck pain is most often unknown.
Although most acute episodes resolve spontaneously, more than a third of affected people still have low grade symptoms or recurrences more than one year later. For managing neck pain the strongest evidence is for exercise. Physical therapists have a detailed understanding of the cervical spine, related pain mechanisms and exercise prescription which makes them well placed to be the experts to help individuals with neck pain return to normal function.