Pain in the neck or a stiffened neck is a usual issue and is not an issue to be worried about. The soreness and rigidity typically subsides after a span of a few days or weeks and rarely an indication of a serious issue.
An individual can end up with neck pain after sleeping in an awkward position, using a computer for extended period of time or a strain on a muscle due to poor posture. Take note that stress and anxiety can oftentimes trigger tension in the neck muscles that leads to neck pain.
How to manage neck pain at home
In most types of neck pain, the individual should continue with normal activities, stay active and use pain medications to relieve the symptoms. The following measures must be observed to manage the neck pain:
- Provide the individual with regular doses of ibuprofen, paracetamol or a combination of both to manage the neck pain.
- Try to sleep on a firm, low pillow at night. Using several pillows might force the neck to bend in an unnatural position.
- Always check the posture since poor posture can worsen the pain and might even be the cause in the first place.
- A neck collar can be used to help the neck heal but it is generally better to keep the neck mobile.
- The individual should not drive if he/she finds it hard to turn the head
- If the neck is twisted or stiff, encourage the individual to perform some neck exercises.
When to consult a doctor
A doctor should be consulted if the neck pain or stiffness does not seem to improve after a few days or weeks or if the pain could not be relieved with pain medications. It is also best to set an appointment with a doctor if there is a possibility of an underlying health condition.
The doctor will assess the neck and identify any possible underlying condition. A strong pain medication might be prescribed such as codeine to be used with the usual over-the-counter pain medications.
If the individual experiences neck pain or stiffness for more than a month, the doctor might refer the individual to a physiotherapist. For severe symptoms that do not seem to improve, the doctor might prescribe stronger medications or refer the individual to a pain specialist for further treatment.
Causes of neck pain and stiffness
Twisted or locked neck
Some individuals suddenly wake up to find that the neck is twisted to one side and stuck in that position. This is called as acute torticollis and caused by injury to the neck muscles.
This is a neck injury due to abrupt movement of the head backwards, forwards or sideways. Whiplash often occurs after a sudden impact during vehicular accidents.
Wear and tear
Oftentimes, neck pain is due to “wear and tear” that occurs to the joints and bones in the neck. This is a form of arthritis called as cervical spondylosis that occurs naturally with age.