Crick in neck: prompt action helpful to reduce neck pain and stiffness
When a sudden spasm or crick in neck muscles causes limited movement and neck pain, it is important to act promptly and do the right thing to get the best stiff neck relief. This article will help you to know how to manage that sudden and uncontrollable neck stiffness that seems to come out of nowhere to lock your neck in a painful twist or bend.
The stabbing pain and inability to move is often caused by a spasm or kink in neck muscles that can travel from the base of the skull down into the big shoulder muscles that usually appears suddenly. Often we notice that the sudden neck spasm or neck stiffness happens after a small twist or turn of the neck. The neck and shoulder muscles go into a deep and uncontrollable protective spasm preventing movement that might cause further injury.
The severity and suddenness of this muscle locking of a sore neck and shoulders usually indicates that the body is doing all it can to prevent serious injury from a pinched nerve in the neck. The most acceptable explanation for the sudden and uncontrollable locking of the neck, often in an awkward position, is that a crick in neck slowly getting worse is a sign of a pinched nerve in the neck. This can arise from the simple mechanical irritation of spinal misalignment or disc herniation, all the way to a tumor in or near the spinal cord. Whatever the reason, the defense mechanism of the body will not tolerate injury to these major nerve structures. The neck stiffness of a crick in the neck is your body’s way to protect the spine and major nerves from further problems.
Sore neck treatment
Keep these simple measures in mind the next time a crick in the neck strikes. Use all of them for faster relief and return to normal neck movement:
1. Stop or limit doing what might have started the problem in the first place. Evaluate your recent activity that might have started or contributed to the crick in the neck. Once you have identified how and why the crick in your neck started, you then know what to avoid in the future to reduce the neck strain and assist the healing process by avoiding that problem.
Did you strain your neck muscles because you were lifting too much? Were you turning your head around too far? Did you keep your neck in a strange or awkward posture for too long? Have you been working under a lot of stress? Or have you not been getting enough sleep lately? All these things can contribute to a crick in neck muscles.
2. Watch your neck and upper back posture as a long-term prevention and treatment strategy. Good posture is essential to prevent muscle fatigue and the arthritis that can eventually develop when the body is abused by bad posture.
Keep your neck fairly straight as you sit and lie down, and do not tilt the head to the side so that the ears are on the same level. Do not keep the muscles tense or tight, or work unnaturally, to hold you head in an upright posture.
Sleep on your back or side – do not sleep on your stomach. Lying face down while you sleep causes you to severely twist your neck, keeping you in awkward position for hours at a time.
Sleeping pillows should be low enough that your neck posture is normal and comfortable while lying on them. While you sleep your neck should be held in a good posture, and should be fully supported.
Sit without holding the head bent sharply down or leaning forward; if you must look down while working take frequent breaks throughout the day, focusing your vision at a distance from you to avoid eye strain caused by looking only at near objects. During these breaks move around, while stretching the neck, mid-back and lower back.
3. Use ice or heat, or a combination of both
Right after the stiff neck starts this kind of problem usually responds best in the early stages to an ice pack applied over the area of greatest pain and discomfort. However, some people might sometimes respond better to heat. How would you able to tell the difference? Try one and then the other so you can learn which gives you the greatest relief. Although it does not feel very comfortable at the start, ice will almost always offer the greatest level of help.
Later, after some of the pain is reduced and some normal neck movement is restored, it is often helpful to use alternating hot and cold applications to the area of greatest discomfort and limited movement. The reason this approach is often helpful in the later stages of neck pain has to do with the way that the body responds to heat and cold. While heat dilates blood vessels and relaxes muscles, cold reduces inflammation and numbs pain sensation. Both are helpful and can be used in combination for best relief.
4. Gently stretch your neck. When you do neck stretches do not ever move or twist the neck and head so much that it causes extreme pain, but do move a little within your comfort zone. Slowly find those one or two ways to hold your neck and head that give just begin to cause a very slight level of discomfort, and gently hold that posture until the pain feels less intense and the crick in neck muscles is less severe. Use caution and slow movement to gently work the tissue by gently stretching in whatever way seems most effective.
Do not try to push your way past the pain, do not perform these stretches too quickly, and do not try to break the muscle spasm by forcing the neck to do something it is not ready to do.
5. Carefully massage the painful area, paying special attention to the base of the skull, around the top of the shoulder blade and where the pain is most severe near the crick in the neck.
Use the pad of your thumb or your fingertips to gently rub and massage in small circles where the pain feels most intense. Do not press so hard that you make the pain worse; massage so that the pain level is not increased; massage so as to create a good feeling that something beneficial is happening. Do not massage for longer than one minute in any one area; after that minute look for another area to massage and work there.
If you cannot reach up to touch your neck due to pain, ask a friend or family member to gently rub the area for you. Make sure that they will do the massage in a way that feels good; make sure you can control and direct their massage so you are not injured further. This is not a time for brutal or heavy massage to prove how much pain you can tolerate. Instruct the person helping you to be very gentle and do not allow them to use too much pressure or to cause pain.
6. Rest and relax your neck as much as possible while the neck pain is intense and the limited movement is great. Resting the neck will give your muscles an opportunity to stop the protective spasm. Lie down on your back several times during the day with a folded towel under the neck that supports the natural curve of the cervical spine. This period of relaxation will give the spastic neck muscles the message that it is safe to stop guarding the neck so fiercely with intense protective spasm, as your neck muscles no longer have to strain of holding your head up.
Do not overdo the resting, however, since this can quickly weaken the neck muscles making re-injury more likely to occur. The best way to approach this is to give yourself two or three 30 minute rest periods during the day, during which you are basically conducting normal daily that have all strenuous activities eliminated. In this way you are reducing the work load on your neck, you are eliminating excessive activity that might aggravate the crick in your neck, but you are still being reasonably active all at the same time.
7. Use over-the-counter pain medication, in small doses, if needed.
Most people have their favorite OTC “pain pill” that they have learned from past experience works well for them. For this reason it is not necessary to discuss this topic to help select the best pain relieving non-prescription drug to use.
In the case of crick in the neck treatment, it is probably better for someone to use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID (such as Aleve, ibuprofen and aspirin) if needed. This is true because this category of over-the-counter pain medication not only relieves pain, but it reduces the inflammation around the pinched nerves that trigger the severe neck spasms in the first place.
Take this kind of medication only as necessary and only in small dosages to take the edge off the neck pain. Overuse of any drug can cause new problems, often greater than the original problem for which the drug is being taken. Also, overuse of this kind of drug can mask the pain and allow you to do too much too soon, resulting in a worsening of your neck problem and even greater problem of pinched nerve in the neck.
Crick in neck demands immediate attention
There is no good time to develop a crick in neck muscles, but when you get one it is best to act immediately to limit it and not allow it to worsen. Following these steps will help you to minimize the neck stiffness and recover quickly.