What is it?
A stiff neck means you’re not able to turn your neck, tilt your head sideways or look up and down fully and comfortably. Although it can affect the movement of your head on both sides, more commonly it is a one-sided stiffness. Most people experience a pulling sensation or tightness right at the end of a movement. For example, if you have a stiff neck and try to look up towards the sky, you can feel the back of your neck getting more restricted as you continue to look up further. You will eventually reach a point of restriction that you feel you can’t get past without pain.
Who has it?
Neck stiffness is a common health concern for people in careers requiring you to look down often and for long periods at a time. Hairdressers and electricians spend a lot of time in the same, awkward positions day in day out. After a busy week it’s easy to feel your neck locking up. Sleeping in a wrong position or using a bad pillow can also make your neck stiff especially once you wake up in the morning. Sometimes overtraining at the gym causes a stiff neck too. It is common for your body to recruit your neck muscles and upper spine when your larger power muscles are fatigued at the end of a workout.
Why it happens?
A stiff neck is also known as a wry neck. To get more technical, it’s also called acute torticollis. Sometimes the stiffness develops gradually but other times it can appear quite suddenly. Things like falls or high speed contact during sports can cause your neck to stiffen up very quickly, almost immediately after impact. As your body adapts to the trauma, your spinal bones, muscles, ligaments, discs and nerves become inflamed. This inflammation is a normal response to such injuries as your body attempts to heal up. However, a side effect is you lose your normal range of motion.
How it relates to your spinal health:
Any change in normal flexibility, mobility and range of motion of any part of your spine causes spinal degeneration in the long term. Just imagine you’re in a Woolies supermarket and the trolley you chose to put your groceries in has a broken wheel. You need to push much harder to move it and steer with more strength to keep it from turning into the shelves! Similarly, when you’ve got a stiff neck often your spine has to work harder. This causes your spine to grow old quicker.
What to do about it?
Chiropractic care should be the first line of treatment if you have a stiff neck. Chiropractic adjustments help to enhance your brain to body communication, so your neck can restore its normal function. Remember that your spine is made up of 5 components; your spinal bones, spinal nerves, discs, ligaments and surrounding muscles. Stretches, foam rolling and massages will help your muscles but chiropractic care will help all 5 of them.