We’ve all been there at one point or another:
- We sit up in bed and find our neck feels tight.
- We feel stiff after a long day of working at the computer.
- Our neck hurts after a stressful day.
Stiffness or pain in the neck is a common occurrence that usually goes away on its own within the week, but it can sometimes plague patients for far longer.
Many instinctively reach for a bottle of painkillers to curb pain in their neck. However, if you are experiencing a stiff neck, there may be an underlying issue you need to address. Often, joints in the neck tense up and need to be stretched and loosened to allow free movement and prevent routine stiff neck symptoms in the future.
Next time you experience a stiff neck, monitor your pain closely and consider seeing a chiropractor instead of taking medications to ease the pain.
Causes of stiff necks
Stiff necks usually involve difficulty moving the neck from side to side and may also be accompanied by a headache or pain in the neck, shoulder or arm. Pain may persist for a part of a day to a week, so you should seek professional help for your stiff neck.
A few common causes of stiff necks can be remedied with rest or chiropractic care. Muscle strains may occur when the levator scapulae, or muscle that connects the cervical spine to the shoulder, is overused or strained. Strains may occur after various everyday situations like sleeping with your neck at an odd angle or holding tension due to stress. They can also be caused by a misalignment in the spine, resulting in the muscles in the area unable to provide adequate support for the neck and skull.
A pinched nerve might also be causing neck pain. When this occurs, one vertebrae in your spine becomes misaligned and pinches a nerve that protrudes between the spinal segments.
Other, less common causes of a stiff neck are larger, underlying issues such as a herniated disk, osteoarthritis, or disc degeneration.
When to seek chiropractic help
When you notice a stiff neck, try resting for a day or applying an ice pack for 20 minutes. These methods usually help relieve tension within a day or so. In some cases, the stiffness and pain will not subside, requiring professional care. It may be time to see a chiropractor if you experience the following:
- Stiffness or pain that does not go away in a few days;
- Stiffness or pain that is not alleviated by cold therapy;
- Severe pain that makes it difficult to look to the left or right;
- Stiffness or pain following a traumatic incident such as a fall or car crash.
When you visit the chiropractor, they will examine your neck and work to determine the cause of the pain. For example, if you have misaligned vertebrae, they may conduct a spinal adjustment to get everything back in place. They may also walk you through neck stretches and light exercises to keep the joints and muscles strong and mobile.