Sleeping in a proper position and avoiding awkward postures while performing daily tasks could help you get rid of your stiff neck woes, say health experts. According to them, most problems related to a stiff neck and neck pain take place in the winter season.
Stiff neck is a condition where the neck movements are restricted due to a sudden spasm of the muscles, which may or may not be associated with underlying pathologies, says Dr N C Prakash, Senior Neuro and Spine Surgeon, HOSMAT.
Doctors also say that there are several symptoms of stiff neck — a patient when trying to turn the head to the side may experience pain. He may also have a headache, shoulder pain and/or arm pain. This may cause the individual to turn the entire body as opposed to the neck when trying to look sideways or backwards.
Dr Maqsood Ahmed, Chief of Neuro Surgery, Vikram Jeev, Mysuru, says, “Stiff neck or sudden neck pain may be due to too much time spent in an awkward position, such as slouching over a steering wheel while driving or hunching forward to view a computer monitor, or cradling a phone in the crook of the neck while having a long conversation. Sleeping in a position that strains the neck, such as with a pillow that is too high or too firm may hurt your neck as can bearing the weight of a heavy suitcase or any other object on one side of the body. Any form of trauma that impacts the neck, or a fall in which one lands on the top of the head can cause neck pain.
The pain-like symptoms last for a couple of days or a week and may range from mildly painful but annoying to extremely painful and limiting. This problem can be treated by resting for a while, hot fomentation, analgesics and muscle relaxants. Once the pain subsides, you can do some gentle stretching.
Among the elderly, a stiff neck may be associated with giddiness and they must be evaluated for underlying pathologies like spondylitis which need a long-term treatment.
Most minor strains of ligaments, tendons and muscles in the neck heal in a relatively short amount of time (one or two days). Until the symptoms subside, there are many self-care remedies that are effective in alleviating the pain and stiffness.
Applying ice or cold packs
The cold helps reduce inflammation in the area, which in turn allows it to heal. The ice or cold pack should be applied in 20-minute intervals during the initial 24 hours.
Applying heat and taking anti-inflammatory drugs
The heat helps bring nutrient-rich blood flow to the area to stimulate a healing response. Some people prefer moist heat, such as that from a hot bath or shower. Others find more relief from applying continuous low level heat from a heat wrap.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen will reduce the inflammation, which in turn will help reduce the pain. One can also take pain relievers, such as acetaminophen which reduces the perception of pain.
A gentle massage will help stimulate blood flow in the area, which helps heal the strained muscles.