A stiff neck! Have you ever woken up in the morning  with a stiff neck or a neck ache out of the blue? Your first reaction is “What the heck, how did this happen?” Now everything you do is slower and more awkward because you can’t move freely or do things as easily. Read on for common causes of stiff necks and some helpful stiff neck solutions.

Common causes of stiff necks

  • Sleeping on your stomach is the most common cause of stiff necks.  This is true especially for people who have never suffered a neck strain or injury. Sleeping on your stomach on a regular basis, can eventually cause neck pain or stiffness. Even when you don’t feel it at first you are getting an all night twist on your spinal joints. This is because you must turn your head to breathe. While this bad habit can be hard to eliminate, until you stop sleeping on your stomach you will never fully recover from recurring stiff necks.
  • Lying on the couch with your head propped on the arm stresses neck joints and muscles. This is particularly true when you use this position to watch TV or read. This all too common activity puts a prolonged  stress onto the joints and muscles of your neck not unlike sleeping face down.
  • Long hours of uneven postures like when working on a computer with your head turned. 
  • Holding the phrone to your ear with your shoulder
  • Staring down at your cell phone or tablet

The common thread that runs through all these common causes of neck stiffness is a prolonged posture with your head out of neutral position. (Nose straight in front of you).

The most stable position for both neck and spine is to have a front to back arch. We can lose that arch from activities as simple as cell phone texting or leaning forward to watch a computer screen. There are exercises that will bring back both the neck and back arches but they are not routinely found in gyms or most exercise videos. However we do teach our patients the FoundationTraining exercises as a part of most patient’s care.

Why do some people get away with these strained positions for a long time when other people have symptoms much more readily?

  1. Old unresolved neck injuries cause hidden knots or trigger points. Trigger points can cause painful muscle spasms. Trigger points can become aggravated by prolonged strain. They can cause pain to refer to other parts of your body, like down your arms from your neck. A trigger point can also cause numbness or tingling, as well as muscle pain or stiffness. Besides over stretching or using a muscle, cold air on the affected muscle, stress, caffeine and nicotine can all activate a painful trigger point.
  2. Arthritis can make the bad posture bring out stiff neck symptoms more.
  3. A neck with disc or joint degeneration is less resilient than a younger, healthy neck.
  4.  If you keep stressing your neck with bad posture habits, it will eventually degenerate.  Then you will suffer stiff necks more frequently.

 How to prevent stiff necks

  • Sleep on your sides or back and not on your stomach
  • Avoid lying on a couch but if absolutely must, do not rest your head on the arm. Use a pillow to support your normal cervical arch.
  • Keep cold air off your neck with a scarf or collar.
  • When watching TV or working on your computer, be sure to be looking straight ahead. Do not sit for long times with your head turned.
  • Get regular chiropractic care to keep your joints and muscles moving as freely as possible.
  • We teach our patients the FoundationTraining exercises and other exercises to correct postural imbalances that can perpetuate stiff necks


Stiff Neck Solutions

  • If you do suffer a stiff neck, here is what to do:Wet heat (like in a hot shower) can sometimes ease the pain and spasm
  • Move your head side to side and up and down as far as it is comfortable. Do NOT try to force your head into a painful stretch as this only worsens the spasm. Move your head in a pain free range of motion. Each time you repeat the movement, you should be able to move a little farther
  • Lie on your back with a rolled up towel or cervical pillow under your neck. This can relax the painful muscles.
  • Call us for a chiropractic adjustment. Often by moving joints in a different part of the body (such as the sacroiliac joints at the base of your spine) we can reflexly get the neck to loosen. There are also muscle reflex relaxation techniques that we use that may ease the spasm.
  • Ultrasound or other therapies that we have available at the office can also be of help.

When you receive good chiropractic care, even in areas that are a long way from your neck, it helps the entire spine work better and gives you a better opportunity to stay healthy and avoid suffering a stiff neck. If you suffer from stiff necks or if you have one now, why suffer? Give us a call at 978-535-6155.