Stiff neck treatment
Effective crick in neck treatment should begin as soon as possible after the telltale jab of pain and sudden locking of the neck starts. But a crick in the neck, no matter how it starts, is just another name for a muscle spasm that happens in response to a pinched nerve in the neck. The problem of the pinched nerve begins in response to sudden stretching of a nerve as it leaves the spine or from pressure applied directly or indirectly on a nerve. Therefore, treatment for the crick in the neck should be directed toward reducing the muscle spasm and inflammation, and to calming the pinched nerve tissue. Correction of the problem that caused the neck to suddenly lock in an abnormal posture will hasten recovery.
Causes of sudden stiff crick in the neck
It is very common for a crick in the neck to strike without warning and often as a result of doing something you have done many times before without problem. Often the sudden neck spasm and stiffness happens after a small twist or turn of the neck when you are otherwise preoccupied during an unguarded moment. A few common ways to trigger an episode of sudden neck stiffness and pain:
- Twisting the upper body and neck while backing your car into a parking space
- Looking to the left while switching lanes as you drive your car Briskly drying your hair with a towel
- Sleeping with your head turned in an awkward position
- Putting on a heavy coat or a tight fitting piece of clothing
- Tipping the head back while laughing
- Bringing the head forward while sneezing
Crick in neck symptoms and signs
The signs and symptoms of a sudden crick in neck spasm are rather straight forward. they are usually directly related to the body trying to protect itself from further nerve pinching than the original event.
The sudden neck spasm or neck stiffness begins after a small twist or turn of the neck, causing:
- Pain – usually felt as one or more small isolated areas along the side of the neck that appears suddenly, corresponding closely to the location of the pinched nerve. Also, the pain of a crick in the neck can be sometimes felt as a broad area of pain that extends from the base of the skull and extends down into large shoulder muscles that, originating from severe muscle contraction that causes micro-tears in the neck muscle and support tissue.
- Tender to touch – the sore muscles will be very sensitive to light touch at this time. Even slight movement or vibration can cause pain due to involvement of the major nerves as they exit the spine. The muscle can be very sensitive to touch because of the violent protective muscle spasm can cause some degree of muscle tears to occur that are basically micro-tears of muscle fibers.
- Reduced range of movement of neck – the neck and shoulder muscles go into a deep and uncontrollable protective spasm. This spasm prevents full neck movement that might potentially injure the delicate nerves as they leave the spine at the level of the neck.
- Inability to return neck to normal – the neck and shoulder might be kept in an odd twist or tilted posture with the head also carried off center. This distortion prevents further pressure on the nerves in the neck.
- Radiation of neck pain or numbness into the arms or hands – extension of symptoms of pain and numbness as far as the fingertips is possible since the pinched nerves in the neck send nerve messages into the arms and hands.
Outline of crick in neck treatment:
- Prompt use of an ice pack is always appropriate for a soft tissue injury in which a nerve is pinched. Ice is also helpful for a muscle that has a slight tear, swelling, inflammation or contracted muscle that prevents full range of movement. The sooner and ice pack is applied to the side of the neck where the pain is greatest, the better. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin, but through a single layer of thin cotton cloth (napkin, tee shirt, pillow case or handkerchief), and should never be applied for more than 20 minutes at a time. Wait 60 minutes between ice pack applications to allow the tissue to warm up and blood to come back into the area of injury.
- Rest…but not too much – An injured person instinctively wants to stop using the involved area, and this is good. Provide a period of adequate rest for the injured muscle and other tissues to heal and recuperate. But then activity must begin within a few days, even if it is a little uncomfortable and even if it slow and partial activity. Rest is recommended during the early phase of recovery phase, usually one to five days depending on the severity of injury, the body part that is involved, and history of prior injury. Start moving again as soon as the worse of the pain begins to subside.
- Stretching of the involved part – Early in treatment while resting the neck – and keeping the neck in whatever position of twist or tipping feels good – it is appropriate to begin very gentle, very slow and very gradual neck stretches if it does not create pain. While the pain is acute and the reduced movement of the neck is severe, the actual amount of stretching movement might be just a small fraction of an inch. Even so, this small additional stretching effort might feel very strong to the person who needs to this kind of crick in neck treatment. When done properly very light stretching of the neck crick feels good and indicates the stretching is not excessive or inappropriate. Light stretching sustained for several minutes increases blood flow into the injured area and encourages movement of the inflammation fluid out of the injured area.
- Light tissue massage – Done with only the fingertips that does not press deeply into the muscles, stroke downward toward the heart to promote circulation of the tense muscles of the neck. This will help contracted muscles to loosen and assist healing and release endorphins, the chemical messengers that act as the body’s natural pain killers.
- Support neck with a cervical collar or neck brace – Wear a neck support for a few days to allow tissue to rest and relax, as well as reduce stress on the injured neck muscles. Do not wear a neck support too long because this can weaken the neck muscles and delay recovery, as well as make re-injury easier in the future.
- Moist heat application – Using heat in conjunction with cold applications can be very effective to increase blood flow in and edema fluid away from the area of pain and injury. Alternate hot and cold applications soon after the neck pain starts to promote additional circulation to the tight muscle.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs – Even though anti-inflammatory medication reduces tissue swelling and alleviates pain, it might not be best to use them too early in care. If pain is artificially reduced by heavy drug usage the injured person will not have pain to use as a guide. Without pain it is difficult to know how much activity and movement is appropriate. Someone who is heavily medicated is free to do too much, too early, for too long, since pain no longer limits activity. Further, even over-the-counter pain medication has potential side effects. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist before using anti-inflammatory medications for neck pain.
- Avoid neck fatigue – Strictly observe time limits while working, driving or any type of activity that affects the upper body muscles. After recovery starts the neck will be prone to easy and rapid fatigue. Fatigued muscles are more easily re-injured and to heal less rapidly.
- Reduce stress – Many people keep their emotional stress and tension in their muscles. Tight jaw muscles, tension at the base of skull, sitting with the shoulders raised up toward the head, all contribute to a crick in the neck during normal daily activities. If you have a history of sudden spasm and locking of the neck muscles be extra careful during times of increased emotional tension. Help can come from doing something as simple and easy as stopping for 10 minutes to be still, or doing deep breathing while centering your thoughts to the sound you make as the air goes in and out of your nose. Staying calm helps avoid tense muscles.
- Maintain better head, neck and upper back posture – Critically evaluate where you spend time sitting – your desk chair, car seat, sofa, kitchen chair – to determine if they good support and promote good neck posture. If not, do what you must to improve the support you give yourself. Improving your sitting support will relieve head, neck and shoulder stress.
- Strengthening neck exercises – Gentle and graduated neck strengthening exercise is indicated as soon as pain is reduced by half and movement has increased considerably, even though there are still some remaining symptoms. Exercise will speed recovery and should not be delayed until the neck feels perfect; exercise will help make the neck as perfect as possible. Begin exercise soon, even if you have to err on the side of doing too little and too light exercise, than too much.
- Warm-up slowly and deliberately – As recovery advances and you return to normal activity, take deliberate steps to get ready for the activity of the day. Those who do heavy manual labor and athletes should carefully begin to use the neck and upper body slowly and deliberately. Just the simple act of being mindful and aware that the previously injured area is being putting into use will help prepare the neck tissue to return to greater activity.
- Chiropractic – If your recovery is very slow, or you have experienced setbacks and recurrence with your neck crick, you might need additional help to address an underlying spinal structural problem. You might want to consider light and gentle spinal manual manipulation from a chiropractor as an option. Chiropractic manipulation to correct any spinal misalignment that might be the reason for delayed recovery or frequent return of neck symptoms should be investigated.
- Be patient – Healing and recovery take time. As you work to recover do not assume too much. Even though the crick in neck treatment takes time it can be undone by being too hasty or trying to skip steps in your recovery.