If you’ve ever slept the wrong way through the night, then you may have woken up with a crick in your neck. A crick in your neck makes it difficult to move your head in certain directions, or even to use the arm that is on the affected side.
Aside from sleeping wrong, certain activities can also increase the risk of developing a crick in the neck. When combined with stress, muscles can become tense, making the crick in your neck much more severe and debilitating.
Generally, a crick in the neck will resolve on its own and often doesn’t require medical attention. You can also use home remedies to improve your recovery.
Crick in the neck symptoms
The primary symptom of a crick in the neck is pain, but this pain can radiate from the neck into the shoulder and down the arm, depending on severity. Other symptoms include difficulty moving your head in certain directions and swelling of the neck.
In some cases, a crick in the neck may be accompanied by numbness or tingling in the arms and severe pain in the back and shoulders. If this is the case, it may be an indication of something more serious and you should seek out medical attention.
How long does a crick in the neck last?
There are many different causes for a crick in the neck, and depending on the cause and the damage that was done, the crick may last several days to a week.
Additionally, how you treat your crick in the neck also affects recovery time. If you do not utilize any remedies, then it will most likely stick around for longer. But by using home remedies, you can relieve the pain and speed up the recovery.
Causes of a crick in your neck
The most common cause of a crick in the neck is having your head positioned in a way where the muscles and ligaments become strained. This can occur as a result of sleeping with your head in an abnormal position, often caused by an unsupportive pillow.
Another common cause of a crick in the neck is what you do during work and play. Staring at a screen or frequently texting can result in a crick in the neck because you’re under constant strain.
Stress can also contribute, because when we get stressed, our body responds by becoming tense and our posture begins to stiffen. So, as you can see, many everyday activities and habits can have a negative effect on the neck.
Other causes may include:
- Facet joint problems: this joint is responsible for keeping the spine stable, therefore if injured in any way, it can cause you to experience a crick in the neck. The only way to diagnosed facet joint problems is through a diagnostic injection in the neck
- Muscle spasms: a common occurrence in both children and teens; accounting for nearly half of all reported cases. These may also be caused be a problem with the facet joint.
- Cervical radiculopathy: the result of nerve irritation in the cervical region of the spine.
How to get rid of a crick in your neck
A crick in your neck is an easily treatable condition, so you don’t have to worry that it will lead to permanent damage. For starters, you can take over-the-counter pain medications to relieve inflammation and ease pain, or apply heat—with a heat pad or a hot shower—to ease muscle tension. A massage therapist may be able to relieve some of your pain and you should practice range-of-motion exercises. It’s important to make the necessary changes to your pillow and to avoid activities that may put a strain on your neck.
It may also help to change the pillow you are currently using as it may not be supporting your neck adequately. The use of a special pillow instead of a regular one, while the crick is healing, may provide you additional relief. If a special pillow doesn’t provide some relief, it may be beneficial to simply lie flat without one instead.
It is also a good idea to not engage in any strenuous activities for a couple of days to give your neck some time to heal properly. Playing sports or exercising may cause reinjury
Exercises to get rid of a crick in neck
While physical activity should generally be avoided, there are some things you can do that are gentle enough to not cause further injury. By performing certain stretching exercises, you can help alleviate mild neck pain or stiffness. The follow is some you can try yourself
1) Chin nod exercise:
- Lie down with a pillow under the head and knees bent.
- Gently and slowly, in a smooth motion, nod your head towards your chest until you feel the muscles harden.
- Hold for a few seconds, then relax.
- Repeat as needed.
2) Retraction and Protraction exercise:
- Sit in a chair with your back straight, shoulders down and relaxed.
- Gently and slowly, while keeping your gaze level, retract and protract your head horizontally
- Keep the rest of your body still during the exercise.
- Repeat as needed.
3) Extension exercise:
- Sit in a chair or stand with your back straight, shoulders down and relaxed.
- Similar to the chin nod exercise, slowly nod your head forward as if your chin will touch your chest. It is ok if it doesn’t.
- Then, tilt your head back as far as it is comfortable.
- Repeat as needed.
- During this exercise, be sure to feel the stretch of the neck and muscles.
Crick in your neck prevention tips
Here are some prevention tips to reduce the risk of future cricks in your neck:
- Complete neck exercises daily to keep muscles limber
- Ensure you are sleeping on a proper bed and pillow that keeps your neck comfortable and in a neutral position
- When working on a computer, ensure your head is comfortable and not tilted. You may need to raise your monitor.
- Take breaks from activities that put strain on your neck
By following these helpful prevention tips, you will have greater success in reducing the occurrence of cricks in your neck. Don’t be too worried if one day you wake up with a sore neck, as the treatment options listed above will get you back to your full range of motion. If you are concerned that the crick in your neck is something serious, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or chiropractor.