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Ouch! What Causes Stiffness in the Neck?


So just what does cause stiffness in the neck? Imagine, all this time I thought it was my mother-in-law! Or maybe that was a pain-in-the-neck. No matter. At some time or another we all suffer from stiffness in the neck. The cause can stem from any number of things: sleeping on a pillow that is too flat or too high, sleeping on your stomach with your head twisted to one side or the other, reading for prolonged periods of time with your head tilted forward or back or resting on your hand. Even working or exercising in such a way as to use your upper body and arms can cause stiffness in the neck.

As you can see the list goes on and on. The aches and pains associated with a stiff neck can range from mild to severe and can be present or spread to the shoulders, arms and upper back. Neck stiffness is often caused by inflammation of the neck joints, although more often than not it is caused by a strain or spasm of the neck muscles. Severe stiffness can even cause a headache. But this stiffness is for the most part run of the mill. There is other neck pain that is much more serious. Let’s look at the some of the more serious causes but more importantly, let’s then look at some of the ways to alleviate the pain.

Osteoarthritis- Growing older coupled and normal wear and tear of the joints are two of the main culprits of osteoarthritis. Stiffness of the joints and limited movement is the result and is often felt the most in your neck.

Rheumatoid arthritis – RA can wreak havoc on your neck. Symptoms include severe stiffness and overall neck pain, usually in the upper part of your neck. 

Pinched nerve- A pinched nerve can be the result of many things: a herniated disk, arthritis or even a narrowing of your spinal canal. One thing is certain, if you have a pinched nerve, you may experience neck stiffness that often spreads down your arms and in some cases your legs. 

Emotional stress- Stress can be physically debilitating. It causes your muscles to tense up and often a stiff neck is often an early signal that you are feeling stressed. Stress can cause muscle spasms as well. A muscle spasm occurs when your nerves send messages to your muscles that cause them to contract. A muscle spasm in your neck can result in a stiff neck. 

Fibromyalgia- This disorder is associated with painful, achy muscles and joints. Muscles may contract, resulting in a stiff neck. 

The Role of a Chiropractor

Stiffness in the neck can often hint at something much more serious. If the stiffness or pain is severe and persistent it’s probably a good idea to seek medical help which is where a chiropractor can step in.

You chiropractor is qualified to use many of the same techniques and therapies as a physical therapist. Non-evasive spinal adjustments can help restore normal neck function and help alleviate pain. As with physical therapy, chiropractors manipulate the neck and thoracic joints to reduce stiffness, improve mobility, and increase range of motion

Cervical traction is one particular technique used by chiropractors to provide pain relief and improve motion in the neck. Cervical traction gently extends the neck, opening the spaces between the cervical vertebrae and temporarily alleviates pressure on the affected discs. 

Stiffness of the neck can be alleviated quickly as long as the pain is not ignored. Long term health can easily be achieved with the help of common sense and a trained chiropractor!

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of woodleywonderworks

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