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Don’t Turn Away from that ‘Crick in the Neck’

crick in the neck

By Mike Bills, MS PT

A ‘crick in the neck’, neck discomfort, pain in the neck, knots in the neck. Whatever you call it, neck pain is not fun! So why do we get that discomfort in our necks and how can we take care of it?

There are some common causes for neck discomfort. It can stem from stress which causes tight muscles in this part of the body. Neck pain can also occur because of poor posture. When we sit or stand or do anything for that matter with poor posture, this causes tightness in the neck muscles as well as a change in the alignment of the vertebrae in the neck. Another common cause for neck pain is overuse of the shoulders. Overuse of the shoulders might look like lifting heavy boxes or reaching up repetitively to clean you cabinets or even when you’re exercising or playing a sport. The overuse of the shoulder muscles has a ‘trickle up’ effect on the neck and therefore can cause pain.

Neck pain, when not taken care of can progress to other issues as well:

  • Arthritic changes in the neck due to poor alignment or chronic tightness in these muscles
  • A breakdown of the discs in the neck
    • Discs are the cushion that keep vertebra from rubbing against each other, prevent arthritis, keep the space for the nerves that exit out of the spine

What are the common symptoms for neck pain?

  • Neck pain will start as stiffness and tightness. This might make turning your head or looking up or down difficult or painful. Usually this stiffness and tightness will last for a few minutes, hours or maybe just a day.
  • Sometimes, neck pain will cause you to have headaches if the tightness continues. Keep in mind, headaches are always due to muscle tension.
  • This stiffness and tightness can progress to what we all refer to as a “crick in your neck”. 
    • This is where the alignment of vertebrae is beginning to shift causing increased pressure in between the vertebra.
    • This pain will be more intense.
    • Sometimes we may wake up with this ‘crick in the neck’ feeling and assume we slept wrong. You did not sleep wrong! What’s happening here is there is still tightness in your neck and a small shifting in that didn’t “shift back”. Overnight, this “kink” builds overnight and thus adds more pressure in the morning and more pain.
    • This ‘crick in your neck’ makes turning your head difficult. Many people with neck pain may have trouble turning their head while driving and looking up. It may also cause sharp pains, pulling and overall discomfort
  • Neck pain can also progress into radiating pain.
    • The nerve that exits out from the space into between the two vertebra is now being pinched on either by the vertebra or the muscles themselves.  
    • This is generally because the disc is starting to lose some of its shape as well.

How does neck pain impact my day?

  • Tightness and stiffness in your neck
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty turning your head or looking up or down
  • “Crick in your neck” feeling
  • Problems with sitting for any period of time (work, school, the movies etc)
  • Pain – aches, stabbing or shooting pain in the neck, shoulder blades, shoulder, chest, arms etc.
  • Tingling into arms or hands

The good news with all of these painful symptoms is that physical therapy is a very effective treatment method for neck pain and discomfort. A physical therapist at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center will determine the real cause of your neck discomfort. Determining the cause is critical to helping handle the pain so we can handle the problem and stop the pain from getting worse. A physical therapist will address any alignment and positioning issues with the bones in your neck. Using manual therapy techniques, we’ll help get the pressure off of the nerve and thus reduce the pain. We will manually and actively stretch the muscles in your neck helping to relieve tension, get rid of headaches and other symptoms. Physical therapy will also help strengthening your neck muscles, shoulder blades and muscles in your upper back. Targeted strengthening will help support the weight of your head and improve your posture. There are many small muscles in your neck that need to be strengthened and we will teach you the right way to do so.

Don’t turn away from your neck problems! Call TODAY at 703-450-4300 so one of our therapists can help address your neck pain and get you back to pain-free living! Not sure if you’re at a point where physical therapy can help you? CLICK HERE and try this self-assessment to see how good your neck range of motion is.