There is a certain type of neck pain commonly referred to as a “crick in the neck.” Some people may find this hard to describe, but almost everyone can call to mind what the feeling is, as it differs from chronic or regular neck pain. More stiff and uncomfortable than sharp, a crick in the neck will usually resolve over time, but it can be anything from irritating to fully preventing you from completing daily tasks. If you have a crick and need to resolve the problem, read on to understand what options you have.
Causes of a Crick in the Neck
Most people can point to a specific reason they are suffering from a crick in the neck. Commonly, it results from the neck being in an awkward position for an extended period of time. Sleeping in an abnormal and awkward position or slumping forward for a few hours can be enough to shift your vertebrae out of alignment. Actions like this can also put pressure on the nerves in the back of your neck, leading to the feeling of stiffness and difficulty stretching or bending.
While anyone can suffer from this, there are certain athletic activities that can contribute. Improper form while running and weight training may lead you to wake up with a crick in the neck. Other conditions like arthritis, a pinched nerve, or even an infection can cause this problem in rare situations.
Home remedies and time are usually enough to reduce this neck pain, though it can be a sign that something in your spine has become misaligned and require further treatment. Below are some ways that pain can be addressed.
Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
Options like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or anti-inflammatory options like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help with pain in the joints. If you wake up and notice the beginnings of a crick in your neck, it can be a good idea to take a low dose of these medications with your first meal of the day. For short-term issues, this can reduce swelling and allow you to return to normal, though they should not be used on an ongoing basis.
Applying heat to stiff muscles will usually help them loosen up, which in turn relaxes the nerves in your spine and allows your range of motion to return. For a crick in the neck, applying a heating pad to the area for 8 to 10 minutes may offer relief. If you don’t have a heating pad at home, you can fill a clean sock with uncooked rice and microwave it for about 30 seconds before applying it like you would a heating pad.
Hot water and steam can offer relief, especially if paired with a massage. Standing under a hot shower and allowing the water pressure to hit your neck may be enough to loosen up the muscles and return range of motion. If possible, you could also utilize a sauna or take a long, hot bath.
Gentle stretches can be effective at freeing the nerves in your neck from the stiff muscles that surround them. One option is to carefully and slowly rock your head from side to side, then roll it forward, feeling the tension of gravity on your neck and forming small circles with your head.
Another method is to lie flat on your back, raising your arms to shoulder level and slowly moving the head from side to side.
Breathe deeply during all stretches and move slowly and deliberately. You should feel some relief and maybe tightness during these, but not sharp or increased pain. If this occurs, stop immediately to avoid pulling a muscle or worsening the condition.
When to See a Doctor
In some cases, a crick in the neck may indicate more serious health concerns. Radiating pain that doesn’t go away, weakness or numbness in an arm or leg, or headaches may be signs of something more serious happening. Any crick in the neck that lasts more than 24 hours is a good reason to call your doctor and make an appointment.
Even if there is no serious condition, a chiropractor or physical therapist may be able to provide advice on stretches or adjustments to posture and lifestyle that reduce pain and prevent future cricks.
At AICA Jonesboro, our multi-disciplinary team of specialists will be able to rule out any underlying problems like arthritis before addressing your neck pain. We will create comprehensive plans of care, including our chiropractors, physical therapists, and orthopedic doctors as necessary. Call us today to begin working with the team.