Imagine getting up feeling a painful crick in the neck in the morning can be uncomfortable as it is unpleasant. However, sometimes the position we sleep in, and the amount of stress on our neck and shoulders can often cause stiffness and tension making it difficult to move our neck.
When you experience a stiff neck, it is usually when turning our head from either side or looking sideways becomes difficult. Often, the pain may make us move our whole body instead.
A lot of us probably know the uneasiness and painful feelings that come with a stiff neck. Often, a stiff neck can occur suddenly or develop later after doing activities that are strenuous like moving heavy objects. In a lot of cases, the symptoms would naturally disappear within one week. However, the way a person treats and manages the symptoms of the stiff neck would vary greatly in terms of the level of pain and recovery period and whether it will return again soon.
What are the causes that are common in the stiff neck?
There are a lot of reasons or factors that can contribute to stiff neck. However, one cause that stands out the most is when there is considerable strain put in muscle tissues or sprain in the soft tissues. To be specific, the part of the neck that gets injured causing stiff neck is the levator scapulae. The levator scapulae is the part of the neck that is located at the back and either side.
When this is strained, the injury will then cause a painful sensation around the neck which then makes it difficult to move. Often, it is caused by ordinary activities like:
– Sports activities that are prone to falling or impacts that are sudden causing the head to be pushed to the side in a rough manner
– Sleeping but with the neck in a lanky position
– Doing activities that repeatedly requires the head to be turned side to side like swimming
– When there is high levels of stress and anxiety experienced causing tension around the back and neck
– When sitting in a slouching position especially when looking at the computer screen
– When the neck is in an abnormal position for prolonged periods like cradling a phone while having a conversation between the shoulder and neck
While these are common causes, there are also causes that are caused by underlying health disorders. Usually, this involves complications with the cervical spine that creates muscle spasms leading to a stiff neck. These causes include:
- Cervical osteoarthritis – when there is a degeneration of cervical joints and bones that make up the vertebrae.
- Cervical herniated disc – when the protective layer of a disk connecting the spine degenerates, causing inflammation on the tissues nearby
- Cervical degenerative disc disease – when the degeneration of the cervical disc causes intense pressure and causes inflammation on joints, nerves, and soft tissues.
What are the signs and symptoms of stiff neck?
Having a stiff neck can have a variety of pain levels. Often, it can just be discomfort around the neck area, or sometimes it can be extremely painful and sharp. Aside from the stiffness, there are also other symptoms that can be felt associating with stiff neck. This includes shoulder pains and constant headaches.
What are the effective natural treatments for stiff neck?
As mentioned, depending on the intensity of the condition, the symptoms of stiff neck would usually go away after a week or so. If you are concerned about the pain and discomfort of a stiff neck, you can visit a doctor and opt for treatments to lessen the pain and promote the recovery. However, there are also self-care methods that you can also follow to treat a stiff neck as well as to lower the risks. Below are seven ways:
1. Make sure to get a good rest
When you feel the symptoms of stiff neck, it is important to get a good rest and pause strenuous activities that trigger it. This gives your neck and the tissues around it a time to heal as well as to ease the tension and avoid spasms.
2. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers
Some pain relievers you can purchase over-the-counter like NSAIDs can help reduce inflammation, which will then relieve soreness. Common NSAIDs you can take include ibuprofen and naproxen. However, it is essential to check first with your doctor before doing so.
3. Cold or hot compress
Using a hot or cold compress can also ease the stiffness experienced around the neck and effectively relieve pain. For cold compress, place a few blocks of ice on a damp towel and place around your neck. On the other hand, using a hot compress can also improve blood flow and make it easy for faster healing.
4. Doing gentle head and neck stretches
When the pain can be tolerated, doing stretches can effectively loosen the tension felt around the neck and shoulders and help bring back the neck’s natural motion.
5. Always keep a proper posture
This is important if you’re constantly sitting for long hours as there is a tendency to slouch or slump. Similarly, doing activities that involve carrying bulky items should also be done appropriately to prevent injuries to the back and neck. For instance, when trying to lift heavy items, use your legs instead of the back.
6. Be mindful of your sleeping position
The position when sleeping can also be a cause of injury to the neck. To avoid this, try getting yourself some ergonomic pillows to put your head in a less awkward position. Alternatively, make sure to prop your pillow in a manner that does not put a strain on your neck and head. Also, avoid sleeping on your stomach.
7. Splurge on a good massage
Massages can have therapeutic effects on the body. When you’re experiencing a stiff neck, try having it massaged with essential oils for blood circulation to increase. This will reduce soreness in the muscles while making you get better sleep as well.
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