One of the common issues that clients come to see me about is a stiff neck. This can be really debilitating and painful, as well as being very inconvenient when you need to look behind you and find that you can’t. This image illustrates just what I am talking about!
Two of the main causes are: poor posture; usually due to sitting in the same position for too long, such as looking at a mobile phone or a computer screen at the wrong angle, or perhaps sitting knitting or sewing with your neck in a forward position for a long period of time; or due to an injury such as a car accident or a fall.
There is usually pain in the neck when trying to turn your head, accompanied by all sorts of alarming cracking and creaking noises. If it is very severe just holding your head up straight will be painful. If it is due to poor posture, then this can come on gradually until you become aware of an inability to turn your head when reversing or trying to look behind you.
Sometimes the pain is not just in the neck but also in the shoulder, upper back, and possibly in one or both arms. You may be able to move your head freely one side but not the other. When you observe people with a stiff neck, they often have to move their entire upper body around when they want to look behind them.
Sometimes a stiff neck clears up on its own. It depends on the severity and the cause of the problem and so it can vary from a few days to a few weeks. If a stiff neck lasts longer than this then you may need to seek help from your GP or a therapist.
It isn’t commonly known that neck pain can also be caused by an issue in the jaw, and a good therapist will be able to help you with this. Pain doesn’t always originate where you can feel it.
Below I have listed some self-help techniques which you can easily do at home.
- When to Seek help. If the pain and lack of mobility continues for more than a few weeks, then it is recommended that you get yourself checked at the GP.
- Red Flags. If severe neck pain commenced after an accident, then you should seek help without delay. If your stiff neck is accompanied by nausea, fever, severe headache, vomiting then seek help immediately.
- Time. Most times a stiff neck caused by poor posture will ease off by itself in a few days to a few weeks. Time may be all that is needed for the damaged tissues to heal.
- Heat and Ice. If there is pain, then you can apply a heat pad or ice pad for the first couple of days. Experiment to see which helps the most as it varies from person to person.
- Medication. You can buy over the counter medication such as ibuprofen to help provide temporary relief from the pain. Seek the advice of your pharmacist.
- Support. Advice used to be to wear a neck collar, but this is no longer recommended. It is better to keep your neck unrestricted, and to keep it moving gently and slowly.
- Healing. It is important to remember that the body is a self-healing organism and can usually heal itself without requiring any intervention.
- Rest. If the neck pain came on after a strain or injury, then the tissues are likely to have been damaged, so it is important to rest for a couple of days to allow the damaged tissues to heal. This means avoiding excessive twisting or movement of the neck such as gym, swimming, sports. After a few days you can start to move the neck actively again.
- Self-Massage. The simplest technique is to roll up a towel. Lay down on the floor (a bed is too soft) and place the rolled up towel under your neck. Gently roll your head from side to side making sure your head is relaxed.
- Exercises. The best exercises are the simplest ones. Do not push further than the point where you feel resistance. Repeat each exercise several times and do at least twice daily. If you consistently carry out these exercises regularly you will find that it helps a great deal.
- Turn your head from left to right slowly and carefully.
- Drop your chin down to your chest and then look up to the ceiling.
- Take your right ear to your right shoulder, and then take your left ear to your left shoulder.
- Therapy. If restriction continues, a therapy such as Bowen Technique, massage, chiropractic or osteopathy will help to relax and relieve the tightness and pain, allowing for freer neck rotation. It is important to keep doing gentle neck exercises (above) and to reconsider your postural habits.
I hope you have found this article useful. Do contact me if you have any questions.
Who Am I?
My name is Sue Jaycock, I am a Bowen Therapist and a Massage Therapist working from my home clinic in Daventry, Northamptonshire.
Here is a review from one of my clients who had neck pain. You can read more here:
“I went to Sue because of a stiff & clicky neck. Her treatment was gentle, but really effective. Thoroughly recommended.” SW
However, Bowen isn’t just for back pain! It’s an amazing therapy for all sorts of musculoskeletal issues, aches and pains, stress and tension. Find out more here.
If you live in the Daventry area and you would like to know more about having a Bowen session with me, do get in touch.
Thanks for reading.
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