When one of the muscles becomes strained or tight, a stiff neck also occurs. When one or more of the vertebrae is damaged, stiffness may also occur. When an individual attempts to move their neck or head, a stiff neck can become painful. Typically, from a mild injury or incident, a sore neck results. At home, people will also ease the stiffness. However, in rare circumstances, it may be a symptom of a severe condition needing medical attention.
Causes of a stiff neck
When the neck muscles are overused, extended too far, or stressed, stiffness usually occurs. This can lead to pain ranging from moderate to extreme, which can make it hard to lift the head or use the muscles of the neck.
The most common causes of a stiff neck include:
- Whiplash: Whiplash can be caused by more serious neck injuries. During car crashes, people often encounter whiplash that causes the head to unexpectedly jerk forward and backwards. Whiplash is an injury to muscles, bones, ligaments, or any of the nerves in the neck. In the spine, it induces pain and stiffness.
- Arthritis: Cervical spondylosis, or neck arthritis, can also cause pain in the neck and discomfort of the neck, which can strengthen when they lie down. When a person remains in the same place for a long time, such as while driving or sitting in front of a screen, the pain can get worse.
- Meningitis: Often the symptom of stiff neck, which can be severe, is meningitis. Meningitis is an inflammation of the meninges that are the brain and spinal cord coverings. Meningitis might be caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungi.
Let’s take a look at treatments for a stiff neck-
The best way to alleviate a sore neck depends on the cause of the condition. Any of the following home treatments can assist when the stiffness is minor:
- Applying ice: After a mild strain, using an ice pack will help reduce pain and swelling. The ice may have a numbing effect, thus relieving any pain temporarily. Typically, this procedure is most successful during the first 48 hours after an injury, when the most severe swelling appears to occur. To prevent frostbite, use a first-aid ice pack or cover a bag of ice or frozen peas with a sheet. Take 20 to 30-minute breaks and add the ice for up to 20 minutes at a time.
- Applying heat: Certain individuals switch between using ice and heat on a strain of the muscle. Using heating pads or a hot bath may help to relax and provide relief from sore muscles.
- Taking over-the-counter medicines: when applying ice, heat, or both does not alleviate stiff neck pain, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help. Examples include ibuprofen and naproxen, which can minimize swelling and alleviate pain.
- Stretching: Stretch the muscles of the neck gently and slowly moving the head from side to side. Roll the shoulders back and forth.