A stiff neck, also known as a crick in neck, is a strange stiffness that prevents you from moving your head and neck comfortably. A crick in your neck can make your cervical spine stiff, rigid, and immobile, which can be highly inconvenient. You might be relieved to learn that it isn't a legitimate medical diagnosis. So, does this mean you don't have neck pain? What a shame.
Any number of neck ailments could cause stiff neck. It will be up to a spine specialist to give your specific diagnosis a proper name. Fortunately, there are several treatments that can help, many of which you can perform at your home.
Crick in the neck vs. neck pain
The phrase “a crick in your neck” refers to stiffness in the muscles surrounding your lower neck and shoulder blades. This is distinct from chronic or recurring neck pain, which can cause various factors and reoccur with some predictability.
A crick in your neck is usually more stiff and uncomfortable than painful, and it is generally treatable at home. A twitch in your neck can sometimes temporarily limit your range of motion. A crick in the neck causes the neck to stiffen and become less mobile than usual. Some people say a cramp feels like something in the neck needs to pop into place.
What Causes This Crick? What Are It's Symptoms?
Muscle spasms are uncontrollable muscle contractions. Muscle injury or overuses frequently causes this twitch. Because of the stress placed on them, muscles in the neck and upper back can spasm. Your neck must support your head, which is roughly the weight of a bowling ball. Poor head and neck posture effectively multiplies your head weight, putting additional strain on the neck and upper back muscles. The majority of neck cricks, according to many experts, are caused by muscle spasms.
While cricks in the neck are unpleasant, they are not painful. If you already have a neck condition or injury (for example, whiplash), a crick in the neck and stiffness may aggravate your pain. The three most common symptoms of neck cricks are:
- Neck and shoulder muscles are tense.
- Reduced mobility affecting the range of motion of the neck.
- Being unable to turn your head to look over your shoulder entirely.
- When your neck moves in a certain way, you will feel a popping sensation.
Treating a Crick in the Neck
A crick in the neck will usually go away on its own. So, what's the issue? Neck pain can have a very negative impact on your quality of life before it goes away. Some neck pains can last all day, leaving you with no way to escape and preventing you from sleeping restfully or even sleeping at all, which adds to your misery. That doesn't even consider a neck cramp that won't go away on its own.
What can you do about it? Actually, quite a bit.
Going to a doctor or spine specialist is a good idea, but keep in mind that they will want you to try conservative, nonsurgical treatment options before considering surgery. Remember that most of the cricks in the neck resolve on their own, so most will be gone by the time surgery is scheduled. Instead, try the following home remedies first:
- Ice, heat, or both: Heat can help relax muscle spasms, while ice reduces inflammation. If you're not sure which will be more beneficial, try alternating.
- Rest: Resting a sore muscle is usually a good idea, but avoid prolonged bed rest. Back pain, like neck pain, necessitates some level of activity or you risk becoming deconditioned.
- Over-the-counter medicines: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help you alleviate pain and bring down most of the inflammation.
- Change in lifestyle: Try the best sleeping position that gives you minimum neck pain.
Cricks and cramps in the neck are closely linked to lifestyle choices, and you may experience them on a regular basis. Simple neck stretches, massage therapy, investing in a supportive pillow, and taking frequent breaks from your desk job computer may help prevent neck stiffness and keep you moving comfortably. A crick in the neck should go away with a few stretches and some patience. If home remedies do not work, a person should consult a doctor about treatment options.