What Causes Stiffness in the Neck?

Having a stiff neck can be a pain to deal with. Knowing what caused it, how to treat it and how you can prevent similar outbreaks in the future can prove useful for your health and overall well-being.

Table of contents
  • Your Guide to Managing a Stiff Neck
  • What is a Stiff Neck?
    • The Main Causes of a Stiff Neck
    • How to Treat a Stiff Neck
    • How to Prevent a Stiff Neck

Thankfully, we have a guide to help you manage your stiff neck.

Your Guide to Managing a Stiff Neck

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What is a Stiff Neck?

Patients with a stiff describe it as a feeling where the neck feels “stuck”. You struggle to move it up and down, or left to right. You have a limited range of motion, and it’s uncomfortable when trying to move your head around. It’s these reasons that it’s referred to as a ‘stiff’ neck.

The Main Causes of a Stiff Neck

There are several main causes of a stiff neck, each varying in terms of recovery, pain and longevity. Having an understanding of what causes your pain can help you manage it in future. Here are the most common causes:

● Muscle Strain or Sprain (sleeping the wrong way, repetitive activity both for exercise of in everyday life, poor posture, or impacts can cause your muscles to strain or sprain, resulting in a stiff neck)

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● Osteoarthritis (the daily wear and tear of your neck joints with age can result in your neck becoming stiff more often than not)

● Cervical Spine Disorders (A cervical herniated disc, cervical degenerative disc disease or cervical osteoarthritis can cause your neck to become stiff. In most cases, the stiff neck is a symptom of one of these conditions)

● Injuries (serious accidents, such as car crashes, sports injuries or workplace incidents can result in your neck locking up significantly)

● Infections (in extremely rare cases, you might have contracted an infection in your neck, causing inflammation and stiffening of the neck. The most common infection is meningitis. But you have to have other symptoms present, including headaches, fever and nausea)

How to Treat a Stiff Neck

Here is how you can go about reducing the pain, managing the symptoms and removing your stiff neck:

● Rest – take it easy for a few days and do not do any strenuous or excessive exercise that causes more pain or discomfort to your neck. Resting always helps at the start of the pain.

● Cold and/or heat therapy – a combination of both hot and cold treatment can help you manage your pain and discomfort. Be sure to ice the stiff neck for the first 48 to 72 hours, before applying heat to it to loosen the muscles.

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● Use over-the-counter medications – the likes of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can prove helpful when it comes to managing the pain of your stiff neck. Use the likes of Advil, Motrin, Tylenol and ibuprofen every few hours.

● Slow stretching – over the first few days, it’s best to stretch out your neck muscles to get them moving again. Most importantly, be gentle with your stretches and don’t exceed your limits.

● Visit a physiotherapist – having professional care and treatment can be effective for your long-term health. Your best course of action is to visit a physiotherapist , who can provide you with a treatment plan that helps your pain.

● Get a massage – a massage can reduce any stiffness by reactivating the muscles and get them moving again. It’s best to get massages from a registered massage therapist.

How to Prevent a Stiff Neck

While treatment can prove useful, your best course of action is to prevent it from happening in the first place. We recommend the following:

● Getting regular exercise, mixing both strength training and stretching. This can help create a limber and tough neck, reducing potential stiffness.

● Practicing good posture can help stabilize your neck. Set up an ergonomically friendly, lift heavy items with the legs rather than the back and stand straight when possible.

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● Changing your sleeping position can ensure you sleep in a position that is comfortable while also stabilizing your neck.

● Getting regular massages and treatments can help maintain your flexibility, strength and range of motion while reducing pain and outbreaks.

We hope that this guide will help manage your symptoms of a stiff neck. If pain is persisting for more than a few days, we recommend going to your doctor.

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