Stiffness and neck pain in the neck are common concerns among patients. Symptoms of neck stiffness may include headaches, muscle tightness, and constricted mobility. Typically caused by poor posture, a stiff neck can be debilitating. Your sore neck may affect your quality of life due to decreased mobility, increased pain, and built-up tension.
Stiff Necks and Neck Pain Is Increasingly Common
Bad posture is often the cause for a stiff neck because of tense muscles from actions such as spending too much time on a computer, overexerting muscles, or sleeping in awkward positions. Sometimes the cause is unclear, and neck pain or stiffness may return from other activities such as working out. There are many reasons for neck pain, and you should seek medical care if your neck pain lasts more than two weeks.
When the muscles are worn-out by bending over to look at electronic devices for long periods, your body becomes tense. This condition is called text neck or tech neck. By overworking your muscles in an unnatural position, they strain and cause tension at the base of your neck. Muscle strains may also materialize from holding a cell phone between the ear and shoulder, often overstretching the muscles on the sides of your neck.
In neck strains, the muscles may stretch beyond their means or potentially tear, causing discomfort along the neck. Often these tears lead to inflammation and create swelling, which may increase recovery time. Inflammation may take hours to appear and worsen after the first day. The delay of inflammation often makes it difficult to pinpoint where the pain originated.
Twenty muscles support holding the head in its proper position, and a strain to these muscles could lead to other concerns in the levator scapulae and trapezius. The levator scapulae travel down the sides of the neck to the shoulders (scapula) and can cause problems with mobility when turning left or right. Trapezius muscles run from the base of the neck to about mid-back. These muscles help with the extension and tilting of the head. If you feel pain when moving the head, you may have a muscle strain in the neck.
As you age, your joints become overtaxed. The medical term for worn joints is cervical spondylosis or arthritis of the neck. Osteoarthritis leads to deterioration of the cartilage between vertebrates, which can form bone spurs (osteophytes). In the aging process, your discs bulge, become dry, weaken, and the cushion of the spine dwindles. This wear and tear eventually result in pain and loss of motion. 85% of the population over 60 experience osteoarthritis. It is not uncommon to see patients with cervical spondylosis.
Although symptoms are rare with arthritis of the neck, you may notice stiffness and pain when they do appear. These symptoms are often detected when reading a book or turning your head while driving, and they may be mild or severe. You may also experience headaches, numbness, or weakness due to nerve compression, muscle spasms, or popping noises.
Cervical radiculopathy, or a pinched nerve, may cause stiffness or pain in the neck, shoulders, upper back, or arms. In some cases, you may experience numbness or weakness due to the pinched nerve. This condition is often related to cervical spondylosis but generally erupts from a sudden injury with herniated discs. A pinched nerve can usually be detected when you have sharp or burning pain shooting down your arm from the neck and may be made worse by particular movements like turning the head.
Whiplash is an injury that leads to neck stiffness or pain and can develop from car accidents, sports injuries, or hard falls. Whiplash is when the head suddenly jolts forward and then backward. Old age, osteoporosis, existing spinal conditions, or degenerative disc disorders may increase the risk of whiplash. Symptoms of whiplash can take around three months or up to a year to heal.
Sleep positions and pillows can make you feel discomfort from neck stiffness. According to Harvard University, the two most comfortable positions for sleeping are on your back or sides, often providing the best opportunity for cervical support. Rounded pillows that support the crevice of the neck are recommended, and memory and feather pillows can contour to the neck but avoid too high or firm pillows. Harvard University also reports that those who sleep in awkward sleep positions report musculoskeletal pain. Inadequate sleep results in the muscle's inability to relax and recover.
Lifting heavy items may result in muscle strain, such as televisions, weights at the gym, or furniture. Stretching, warming up, or seeking assistance before lifting heavy items will help lower the risk of muscle strain. Leaning on your arm or hand in one position for too long also can cause stress on muscles. You may carry a purse, groceries, packages, or a suitcase on one side of the body, creating more pressure on those muscles. After overuse, this can cause damage resulting in a stiff and painful neck. Try to use your legs and hips to pick up heavy items, and always attempt to lift from your center of gravity.
Meningitis leads to swelling of the tissues around the brain and spinal cord, and bacterial infection or a virus is often the cause. Meninges become infected and inflamed, causing nerve fibers to respond and create pain in the neck area.
Fibromyalgia may cause pain and stiffness throughout the body. Although fibromyalgia is still being studied, doctors see neck pain as standard. Symptoms of fibromyalgia can worsen with stress, cold, or anxiety.
Another common condition that causes neck pain is rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes joint swelling that makes it difficult to turn your head and leaves you feeling pain. One main focus of rheumatoid arthritis is neck pain worsens over time or continues to return, unlike injuries. RA affects the atlas, or axis, of the vertebrae. The atlas is the first of seven small bones that create the backbone. When these bones become unstable, they can slip and create pain and stiffness.
Can Common Neck Pain Lead to More Serious Issues?
Although rare, further complications can manifest through neck stiffness and pain.
- Loss of Productivity
- Nerve Damage
- Weight Gain
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Spinal Stenosis
- Eye Strain, Nearsightedness, Dry Eyes
- Pulmonary Disease
- Cardiovascular Problems
Stretches, Foods, and Applications a Patient Can Apply to Relieve Neck Pain
Although it may seem that working these muscles could cause more damage, exercise does aid in reducing neck stiffness and pain. Gentle exercising after an injury helps reduce the possibility of chronic pain. Exercising helps ease long-term pain. Strengthening neck muscles around the neck and stretching showed better results than taking pain medications.
Applying an ice pack or a heating pad to the sore neck help alleviate pain and inflammation. Ice should be used for the first 38 hours, followed by heat. The ice will help with the swelling of the area resulting in less pressure on the nerves and 20-minute increments help inflammation. Heat is used for the recovery process to increase blood flow. Do not use heat immediately after injury as it can prompt further damage. When heating, 15-20 minutes at a time is sufficient. A warm bath, hot tub, or wrap will work adequately.
Treatments at ChiroCare That Can Help with Neck Pain
Let us help you relieve neck pain and stiffness. ChiroCare of Florida will find the best chiropractic adjustments based on your needs. Receiving treatment for your neck stiffness and pain benefits-improved mobility, corrected posture, enhanced sleep cycle, eased the pain, and decreased tension.
Flexion and extension techniques help position the discs into their natural state by applying gentle pressure repeatedly to improve their range of motion. This technique allows more space between the discs in the vertebrae, which decompresses the spine and adequately aligns spinal joints. Our chiropractors may adjust several locations to neutralize the center of gravity for your body.
Postural Correction aids in realigning the spine to its natural state, thereby reducing pain and stiffness in the neck. Slouching forward may cause tension on the neck, which in turn tightens the muscles in your upper shoulders. The long-term use of slouching will lead to stress and aches. Good posture should have your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles create a vertical line when standing or walking while keeping your core engaged.
Manual Therapy assists in increased blood circulation and alleviating pain by applying pressure to soft tissues of the body, such as muscles or tendons, and helps relax the tension in muscles. This technique occurs before an adjustment, after the adjustment, or both.
Rapid Release Technology (RRT) uses a device to open up any blockages formed in the body, thus alleviating pain and stiffness. Using high-frequency vibrations, RRT breaks down scar tissue, releases trapped nerves, and relaxes tight muscles. Rapid Release Technology is a great technique to soothe headaches, back, and limited range of motion.
ChiroCare of Florida has various options to help relieve your neck pain and stiffness. Contact our offices today to make an appointment with one of our chiropractors and set up a customized plan for your pain and stiffness. For specific insurance questions, call ChiroCare of Florida at (877) 216-6206.