Treating a Stiff Neck

Treating a Stiff Neck


A stiff neck is characterized by a soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when you try to turn your head to the side. A stiff neck may also be accompanied by shoulder pain, neck pain, headache, or arm pain. An individual who suffers with a stiff neck is usually forced to turn his entire body as opposed to just the neck when trying to look sideways or backwards.

The neck contains seven cervical vertebrae, which are those bony building blocks of spine in the neck. A stiff neck is also otherwise known as cervical stiffness. It most commonly occurs either due to damage to the bones, nerves or muscles of the neck.

Causes of a stiff neck:
The most common cause of a stiff neck is a muscle sprain or muscle strain particularly to the levator scapula muscle, which is located at the back and side of the neck. Levator scapula muscle connects cervical spine (neck) with the shoulder. Commonly, cervical stiffness occurs from our everyday activities like:

  • Sleeping in a bad position that strains the muscles of our neck
  • Excessive stress which leads to tension in the neck
  • Sports injuries that strain the neck
  • Poor posture, like slouching while viewing the computer monitor
  • Activities that involve turning your neck to the sides repeatedly, such as swimming

Cervical spine disorders:

Problems related to the cervical spine can lead to neck stiffness. The stiffness can also be a reaction to the underlying disorder in the cervical spine. Cervical herniated disc can also lead to neck stiffness because the structures and nerve pathways in the cervical spine are all interconnected. Therefore, if there is problem in any one area, then that can lead to muscle spasm or muscle stiffness.

Treating a stiff neck:
General neck stiffness usually does not take more than a week to diminish. If after a week, the general symptoms of stiff neck do not subside, you should seek medical help. Furthermore, if neck stiffness is noted after a traumatic injury or high fever, then you should seek immediate medical attention. According to the cause of your neck stiffness, the doctor will perform a physical exam and try to find out the symptoms by interrogating you.

Stiff neck is not a health problem that you have to deal with everyday. A physical therapist will be analyze your lifestyle and suggest changes so it won’t keep occurring. Furthermore, a massage therapy session will do wonders to relieve the stress in your neck. A physical therapy session can help build strength in your muscles so that it doesn’t easily get strained.