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Stiff Neck- A Comprehensive Guide For You

Home > Blogs > Stiff Neck- A Comprehensive Guide For You

Stiff Neck- A Comprehensive Guide For You

Orthopedics & Joint Replacement | by Dr. Ayan Roy | Published on 02/08/2023



Introduction

Have you been experiencing a stiff neck off late? Well, we all experience stiff necks at some point of time in our lives. It can be the most frustrating and uncomfortable experience as it restricts our efficiency of moving the head and neck freely. It can occur due to different reasons like waking up after sleeping in the wrong position or because of a long day at work. 

In this blog, we will explore and spread information on the stiff neck and other aspects like its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. Also, kindly note that this blog is for informational purposes only and doesn’t interfere with the consultation of a healthcare professional.

If you have a stiff neck, book your appointment with the best orthopedic doctor in Kolkata at the Calcutta Medical Research Institute. They have the most talented and experienced healthcare experts in their respective fields. You will certainly find the best diagnosis and options for stiff neck treatment.

What is a stiff neck?

A stiff neck usually happens when there is straining or tension in one of the muscles. Stiffness can also occur if there is an injury in one or more vertebrae. Stiffness in the neck might cause severe pain when an individual tries moving their head or neck. 

A stiff neck usually is an outcome of a minor incident or injury. When it comes to treatment, people can involve certain home remedies. In a very rare case, a stiff neck is a sign of a serious disease that requires immediate medical attention.

What are the neck stiffness symptoms?

Neck stiffness symptoms might vary depending on its causes, but some of the common symptoms are: 

  • Pain that’s usually aggregated by keeping the head in one position or place for a long time like while driving or working at laptops or computer screens 
  • Reduced efficiency of moving the head 
  • Muscle spasms and tightness 
  • Headaches

What are neck stiffness causes?

As the neck is the main support system to handle the head weight, it can always be at risk of experiencing injuries and conditions causing pain or restricting motions. Primary neck pain causes are: 

  • Muscle strains- The main triggers of muscle strains are working for long periods over a computer or smartphone. Habits like reading in bed for long hours can also cause strain in neck muscles 
  • Worn joints-Neck joints often tend to experience weaning with age like other joints in the body. The body usually forms bone spurs in response to wear and tear affecting joint motion and causing pain 
  • Nerve compression- Herniated disks or bone spurs in the neck vertebrae are the most common causes of nerve stiffness 
  • Injuries- It occurs when the head experience jerking backward and then forward, straining the neck's soft tissues 
  • Diseases - There are diseases like arthritis, meningitis, or cancer that’s causing neck pain

How is neck stiffness diagnosed?

The healthcare expert will begin neck stiffness diagnosis by understanding the clinical history of a patient. The diagnosis process will involve checking for muscle weakness, tenderness.m, and numbness. The tests will help in gaining an understanding of how far the patient can move the head, backward, and side to side. Here are the tests that will assist in a better diagnosis of neck stiffness:

Imaging tests

Imaging tests are helpful in finding the neck pain causes. Here are the imaging tests: 

  • X-rays- It helps in unveiling neck areas where the spinal cord or nerves are pinched by bone spurs and other changes 
  • CT scan-It involves X-ray images taken from varied directions for producing comprehensive cross-sectional images to view the neck structure. 
  • MRI- It involves using radio waves and robust magnetic fields for creating comprehensive pictures of soft tissues and bones. These soft tissues are the spinal cord and the nerves. 

Other tests

  • Electromyography (EMG)- It can help in determining whether neck pain is linked to a pinched nerve. It includes the insertion of fine needles through the skin into a muscle. The test benefits in measuring the nerve conduction speed for determining whether nerves are functioning right or not. 
  • Blood tests- It helps in determining the presence of inflammation or infections that could be the reason for neck pain.

What are the options for stiff neck treatment?

The common neck stiffness usually goes away within two to three weeks through home remedies and certain sleeping pattern changes including lifestyle. There are rare cases that require proper neck stiffness treatment. So, for such cases, various treatment options are available such as: 

  • Medications- Certain medications like pain relievers are recommended which involve nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, or acetaminophen. 

If pain relievers you can buy without a prescription don't help, your healthcare provider might suggest prescription NSAIDs or muscle relaxers.

Therapy

  • Physical therapy - A physical therapist can teach correct posture, alignment, and neck-strengthening exercises. Physical therapy might also involve the use of heat, ice and other measures to help ease pain.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)- Electrodes placed on the skin near the painful areas deliver tiny electrical impulses that may relieve pain. However, there's little evidence that TENS works for neck pain.
  • Soft neck collar - A soft collar that supports the neck may help relieve pain by taking pressure off the neck. However, if used for more than three hours at a time or for more than 1 to 2 weeks, a collar might do more harm than good.

Surgical and other procedures

  • Steroid injections - A healthcare provider might inject steroid medications near the nerve roots, into the spinal joints, or into the muscles in the neck. Numbing medications, such as lidocaine, also can be injected to relieve neck pain.
  • Surgery - Rarely needed for neck pain, surgery might be an option for relieving nerve root or spinal cord compression.

Conclusion

Almost everyone’s experienced a stiff neck at some point in their life. Whether you accidentally dozed off on the couch or spent a little too much time scrolling on your phone, a stiff neck is usually a temporary reminder to stretch and adjust your posture every few hours. However, if you have a fever, headache, nausea, and other symptoms of meningitis, go to the emergency room right away.

A healthcare provider will tell you how to relieve your stiff neck and if you need any treatments.