How Maple Grove Chiropractors Get Rid Of A Crick In Your Neck
More often than not, we take our neck’s flexibility for granted until there’s a problem. We think nothing of turning our heads when someone calls out to us or when we crane our necks to check for oncoming traffic before making a turn.
But when you have a crick in the neck (i.e., your neck feels stiff and hurts to move), everything becomes much more challenging. You have to turn your whole torso in the direction you want to look to avoid the pain.
Neck stiffness on its own is a hassle, and that goes doubly so if there’s neck pain to go with it. Let’s take a closer look at cricks in the neck to see what causes them, how you can treat them at home, and how a Maple Grove chiropractor can help you fix them, as well as other types of neck pain.
What is a Crick in the Neck?
If it wasn’t obvious, a “crick” is an imprecise and unscientific term. It’s a catchall for those outside the chiropractic and medical worlds who want to describe neck stiffness or pain. From a diagnostic point of view, it could stem from any number of spine-related issues.
When patients complain of having a “crick in their neck,” they are usually referring to:
- Involuntary neck muscle contractions that stiffen their neck and reduce its mobility
- Their neck is difficult or impossible to move in one or more directions due to stiffness
- Upper chest and/or shoulder muscles near their neck are stiff
- Moving their neck a certain way causes a popping sound or sensation
Although cricks in the neck are generally associated with pain, patients may use the term to describe mobility issues that aren’t accompanied by pain.
What Causes a Crick in the Neck?
The root cause of most cricks in the neck is the misalignment of one or more neck vertebrae along with associated muscle spasm. When at least one vertebra moves out of its proper position, the muscles attached to it are pulled, causing stiffness or mobility problems. The displaced vertebra may also irritate a nerve, resulting in neck pain.
This type of spinal misalignment can be caused by many things, such as:
- Sleeping in an awkward position
Sleeping in problematic positions (i.e., on your stomach, in an airplane seat, etc.) for one night is unlikely to lead to a crick in your neck. But keep it up for a few consecutive nights, and you will probably develop misalignment issues in your neck vertebrae.
Sleeping on your back or on your side is best. When on your back, lay your head on one pillow so your head position remains neutral.
When lying on your side — let’s say your right side — imagine the distance between your right ear and the bed if you kept your spine, head, and neck parallel to the bed. This distance is how high your pillow must be to provide ample support to your neck.
- Looking down at a computer or mobile screen for hours
We tend to hold our necks in a specific position when we’re focused on a computer screen, when we slouch, and when we look down at our phones. This is an increasingly common repetitive stress injury known as “Tech Neck.”
Dr. Tieri of Total Spine Health and Injury Center in Maple Grove recommends taking a break from screens every twenty minutes to relieve tension in the neck and spine.
- Lack of physical activity
A sedentary lifestyle leads to the weakening of muscles. In the neck, spinal stability and alignment muscles may lack the strength to properly support the head and shoulders, leading to painful cricks. Regular exercise and physical activities mitigate this risk.
Pathophysiology of Neck Pain
Approximately 15% of neck pain and stiffness cases are related to recent accidents or pre-existing medical conditions. For example, slipping and falling may injure neck muscles or even fracture the upper spine. Osteoarthritis, herniated spinal discs, and spinal stenosis may also be the root cause of neck pain and stiffness.
In rare cases, cricks in the neck may be related to a critical medical condition, such as meningitis (i.e., infection of the membrane protecting the brain and spinal cord), a stroke, or a heart attack. For less severe, non-critical cases of a crick in the neck, patients can usually overcome the issue with a combination of at-home remedies and regular spinal adjustments from a chiropractor.
How to Relieve a Crick in Your Neck While at Home
Suppose the underlying cause of a crick in the neck is simply a strained muscle. In that case, home treatments go a long way to reducing stiffness and pain. Try one of these:
- Apply a hot or cold compress
Hot and cold temperatures promote blood flow, which reduces inflammation and helps muscle injuries heal faster. For best results, alternate between heat and ice packs every twenty minutes. If you feel that one is more effective than the other, then apply that one more often.
- Stretch and exercise
Stretching promotes neck flexibility, and exercise strengthens weakened muscles and supports correct posture. Both of these go a long way to relieving a crick in the neck.
Just be careful to avoid overextending neck muscles or pushing a stretch too far. Learn more about healthy stretching in our previous blog article. Here are some of the best movements for neck pain and stiffness:
- Rolling shoulders back and forth and shrugging them up and down
- Gently lean your head back and down to your chest, then tilt your head left and right (while looking straight ahead). If you can, try to touch your ear to your shoulder.
- Slowly rotate your head (with your back straight) as far to the left and right as you can without experiencing pain. Hold it there for five seconds and then rotate to the other side.
If you don’t experience significant relief from stiffness and pain, or if symptoms worsen despite your efforts at home, you need to go to a chiropractor to check your neck.
How to Treat a Crick in the Neck with Chiropractic Care
Since cricks in the neck are primarily caused by misalignment of the vertebrae and it’s almost always worth seeing a chiropractor for a checkup and adjustment. Chiropractors can alleviate a host of surface-level and deeply-rooted spinal issues with a broad array of tools at their disposal (deep tissue massage therapy, intersegmental traction, therapeutic exercise, PNF stretching, etc.).
Whether the crick in your neck is the result of bad posture or a severe injury, the team at Total Spine Health and Injury Center can help. Best of all, we provide relief without relying on pain pills, injections, or surgery. Schedule a session with us today.