What to do for a stiff neck? Most people have experienced pain in the neck and difficulty in neck movements after waking up in the morning or later in the day, after doing hard work. Usually, the pain and stiffness go away by themselves within a week. However, knowing what to do with a stiff neck is important in terms of reducing both the recovery time and the pain felt by the person.
What is a stiff neck?
A stiff neck can be described as feeling pain and difficulty while moving the head in one direction. A stiff neck can sometimes be accompanied by headache, shoulder pain, and/or arm pain. After a stiff neck, the individual has to rotate their whole body to look sideways or over their shoulder.
The most common cause of stiff neck is muscle strain or soft tissue sprain. In particular, the levator scapula muscles are susceptible to injury. The levator scapula muscle connects the cervical spine of the neck with the shoulder located at the back and side of the neck. This muscle is controlled by the third and fourth cervical nerves (C3, C4). Neck stiffness may also occur due to cervical spine disorders caused by problems in these nerves.
What are the symptoms of a stiff neck?
When the neck is stuck, the person feels a pain that restricts his movement when he turns his head in a certain direction. This pain felt by the person may be a sharp, generalized, or spreading pain.
- Sharp pain: In this pain, the person feels like a knife is being pierced from a single point. This pain is more common in the lower parts of the neck.
- General pain: In this type of pain, there is a pain in one area of the neck, not general.
- Radiating pain: In this type of pain, pain is felt along a nerve that radiates from the neck to the shoulders and arms. Nerve pain is often felt as a burning sensation.
Tingling, Numbness, or Weakness
A tingling sensation or numbness that spreads not only in the neck but also in the shoulder, arm, or finger is often felt in one arm.
Sometimes an irritation in the neck, muscles, or nerves attached to the head also affects the headache. This condition can lead to a tension headache that develops due to the stretching of the neck muscles. If neck stiffness and pain symptoms progress, it may also be difficult to sleep.
What causes a stiff neck?
Levator scapular muscle is a muscle that connects the cervical spine of the neck with the shoulder, located at the back and side of the neck. This muscle is more sensitive than other muscles, and the most common cause of neck stiffness is sprains in this muscle.
Damage to these muscles can be caused by the following factors:
- Neck being in an inverted position during sleep
- After a fall or sudden blow that pushes the head to the side, such as sports injuries
- After activities such as swimming where the head is repeatedly turned to one side
- Sitting in a bad posture for a long time while looking at a computer monitor or cell phone
- Experiencing excessive stress or anxiety, which can lead to muscle tension
- Carrying something like a phone between the neck and the shoulder for a long time
The cause of neck stiffness may start suddenly during the day, rather than immediately after accidents such as sports injuries. In such cases, the cause may be more difficult to determine.
Apart from this, although not common, neck stiffness may have different reasons. These rarely observed cases may also develop as an underlying disorder affects the cervical spine. Cervical spine disorders can develop due to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, neck hernia, nerve compression, fibromyalgia, emotional stress. Meningitis and some infections can also cause neck pain.
How does a stiff neck go?
Since the stiff neck is a muscle sprain, the treatments applied in a normal muscle injury are also valid here.
Working by reducing inflammation, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are typically the first treatment choice for stiff neck and pain. Common types of NSAIDs include ibuprofen and naproxen. Over-the-counter drugs have risks, possible side effects, and drug-drug interactions. Therefore, you should consult your pharmacist or doctor before taking any medication.
Depending on the severity of the neck stiffness, your physician may prescribe muscle relaxants. If the stiff neck is very serious and recurs frequently, your physician may apply the following treatments depending on the underlying causes:
- Physical Therapy: Neck strengthening exercises determined by the FTR specialist can help relieve pain.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): In this method, small electrical signals that alleviate pain are sent through the small electrode placed near the painful area.
- Short-Term Immobilization: A short-term neck support (less than three hours at a time) can be provided with a soft collar that supports the neck.
- Steroid Injections: Corticosteroid drugs that numb the muscles can be injected by doctors.
Neck Stiffness Surgery: Surgical methods can be applied, although very rarely. It can be an option to relieve spinal cord compression.
What is good for a stiff neck?
There are several methods that you can apply yourself at home for neck stiffness. Some of these can be listed as follows:
Like any tissue, muscle tissue needs time to regenerate and heal. For this reason, it is necessary to rest for a few days for the damaged tissues to heal. Driving should be avoided, especially for the first two days, and normal physical activities that strain the neck should be postponed. However, the rest period should not exceed a few days as a muscle starts to weaken when not used much.
- Applying cold or hot compresses:
The first 24-48 hours is the most severe pain in neck stiffness. Applying cold at this time helps to reduce inflammation, while hot compress supports blood flow and relaxes tense muscles. You can use both methods alternately, or you can determine which one works better for you by trial and error, as each person benefits more from different compresses.
- To do light stretching movements:
With light stretching movements, neck stiffness can be reduced and the neck can be given more mobility. Learning the actions that can be done against this problem from a physiotherapist will be the best approach in this regard.
- Doing light exercises:
Light-paced exercises that increase oxygen penetration, such as walking, will increase the recovery process of the muscles. In addition, the person should avoid heavy exercise during the recovery period.
How to reduce the risk of a stiff neck?
For a healthy posture, you need to get into the habit of sitting upright. You can prevent bending by increasing the height of the computer or screen in your workplace, and you can take regular breaks in jobs that require staying in the same position too much. Getting used to being healthy and upright at all times is a long but solid way to prevent pain. Apart from that, take care to keep your neck strong and flexible. When the muscles of the neck are strong and flexible, it supports a healthy posture and reduces the possibility of spasm.
When to consult a doctor because of a stiff neck?
Neck stiffness usually resolves spontaneously within a week. If your neck stiffness lasts longer than a week, you should consult a doctor if you experience frequent neck stiffness. In addition to this, in addition to neck stiffness, if symptoms such as headache, fever, vomiting, excessive sleepiness, nausea are observed, the person should immediately apply to the nearest health institution. Physical therapy or neurologists are the doctors to be consulted for the diagnosis and treatment of a stiff neck.
We wish you healthy days…
Physiotherapy treatment for stiff neck
1- ISOMETRIC EXERCISES:
2- SHOULDER ROM EXERCISES:
If you have a stiff neck best treatment to go nearest physiotherapy center
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