A stiff neck or neck pain is a common health issue, affecting about 1 in every 3 people once a year. While the symptoms of a stiff neck are not life-threatening, they can be extremely painful and adversely affect the quality of life. Hence, it’s important that you learn how to fix stiff neck and manage its painful symptoms.
If left untreated, a stiff neck can possibly lead to secondary conditions such as migraines, shoulder pain, and severe headaches.
Symptoms of Stiff Neck
The symptoms associated with a stiff neck can be easily self-diagnosed at home. While the symptoms can vary in intensity from person to person, they’re commonly identified as:
- Sharp pain in the neck area
- Tight muscles
- Muscle spasms
- Pain that aggravates when you hold your head in one position
- Reduced neck motion/ inability to move your head around
Causes of Stiff Neck
Medically, a stiff neck occurs when the neck muscles are overstretched, overused, or strained. One of the most common causes of a stiff neck is a soft tissue sprain or a muscle strain.
Besides, day-to-day activities are also a major cause. As the sedentary lifestyle becomes more common throughout the world, health problems like a stiff neck become increasingly prevalent in today’s generation. Whether it’s simply for the lack of physical activities or hours of gazing into your smartphones or computers, a stiff neck or neck pain is often among the first issues to arise.
Here are some more everyday activities that may cause a stiff neck:
- Excessive anxiety or stress may lead to tension in the neck
- Poor sleeping posture
- Holding the neck in an abnormal position for long hours
- Poor standing/sitting posture
- Turning the head side-to-side repeatedly
In rare cases, stiffness in the neck may be the result of an underlying condition such as an infection, meningitis, tumor, or cervical dystonia (neurological disorder).
Treatment for Stiff Neck
Luckily, people experiencing stiffness in the neck can easily manage its symptoms and treat it at home. Here’s how:
- Apply ice or heat to the affected area
Pain associated with a stiff neck can be easily reduced with this temporary solution. Apply ice for the first 38-72 hours to the painful area. Then, apply heat in the form of a heating pad, warm bath, etc.
Stiff neck treatment with stretching is one of the most common ways of fixing a stiff neck. Simple stretching activities like squeezing your shoulder blades together about ten times or flexing your neck muscles can go a long way in relieving a stiff neck. Certain yoga poses like warrior II, cat-cow pose, or cow face pose might also be helpful.
- Over-the-counter pain killers
Many people find temporary relief from pain caused by a stiff neck by taking over-the-counter medicines. However, it is advisable to consult with a doctor first. Some of the commonly prescribed OTC pain killers are acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen.
Stiff Neck – When to See A Doctor?
Symptoms of a stiff neck usually go away on their own within a week or so. With proper treatment, it may heal faster. However, if your stiff neck shows no improvement after a week, it’s best if you get it checked by a doctor.0