Somebody calls you from behind and you turn your whole body instead of your neck? This is a clear sign of stiff neck! Most of us would have been in that awkward situation where you wish that you need not move that delicate part of your body. Issues with the neck arise mostly during physical activities, and sometimes during our routine household work. The most common causes of stiff neck are injuries, wear and tear, and over use. Usually felt as stiffness and pain, the discomfort may spread to shoulders, back and arms as well.
It is often caused by excess strain to the neck muscles and also by joint inflammation in the region. Some of the activities that may result in neck pain include:
- Uncomfortable posture while watching TV, working, or reading
- Sleeping with improper head and neck support
- Stress or tension
- Working for long periods with upper arms
- Strenuous physical activity or exercise
Falling, tripping, and twisting of the spine may all cause minor injuries to this delicate part. Severe injuries may be caused by accidents, falling from a height, a sudden blow to the back during sports activities, and strangulation. Acute injuries may be caused by sprain of neck muscles characterized by pain and stiffness in the neck that often spreads to the shoulders, upper back, and arms. Spine fractures and dislocations can also cause acute injury to the neck. It may lead to spinal cord injury and paralysis. Ruptured disc in the neck region may cause the disc fluid to move out and press against a nerve or spinal cord resulting in neck and shoulder pain.
It is better to meet your physician if the pain persists even after few days of home or over-the-counter treatment. If the pain is subsiding with regular pain killers, it is time to fix up an appointment with your doctor. You may be recommended to meet a physiotherapist if the pain and stiffness persists for a long time. Any injury that causes damage to the spine should be immediately brought to the attention of a doctor. One can recognize spinal cord injury from the following symptoms:
- Loss of movement
- Numbness in the arms
- Tingling sensation in arms and legs
- Lack of muscle control in arms and legs
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
Under normal conditions, stiff neck is not serious and may resolve itself within a few days. However, if the symptoms do not improve with home treatment or medications, it is time to meet the doctor.