Have you ever woke up with a stiff neck, stretched or turned your head and all of a sudden it ceases up?

Yes you can relate?

Acute neck spasm or ‘wry neck’ is usually caused by a stiff facet joint in your spine that when put under pressure either when you sleep on it or if you turn your head or stretch your neck in a particular direction, will cause an inflammatory response within the joint capsule.

The surrounding muscles that move that joint will then subsequently go into spasm as a protective mechanism to stop you from further loading the joint.

Unfortunately once the inflammation sets in, depending on how severe the restriction is, will depend on how long it takes for the problem to resolve and this can you leave you in pain and immobile from your usual daily activity.

Frustrating right?

Here are my tips to a speedy recovery from acute neck spasm and how to lessen the likely-hood of getting into this predicament in the first place:

Don’t Panic: the natural reaction to pain or spasm is to panic. When we panic our muscles respond by contracting and this will exacerbate the spasm. If you feel pain take a few gentle and slow breaths, allow your shoulders and neck to relax. Breath into the pain.

Move: this will feel counter-intuitive but when you breath, relax as much as possible, slowly start to move your head, rotating, side bending, flexing and extending. Take your head and neck through your pain tolerable range will give feedback to the muscles that it is safe to let go and this can help to reduce the spasm.

Use Hot and Cold Packs: Use hot and cold packs on the area, 5 minutes of ice followed by 5 minutes of heat and repeat 3 times over 30 minutes, 3 times per day for up to 72 hours. The cold will help to reduce the inflammation and the heat will help to relax the muscles. Both combined will work as an analgesic to alleviate pain.

Recognise what causes your neck stiffness and get your spine checked regularly: what I find treating patients with acute neck spasm is although the condition is acute (quick onset and short term), there is usually a chronically (long term) tight or restricted postural pattern. This chronic pattern can be due to poor sleeping habits (falling asleep on the couch or stomach sleeping), poor work ergonomics (working on a laptop, tablet or using multiple monitors), phone addiction (the turtles you see on the train, in the car, wherever, totally consumed in their social media, emails, on call with their shoulder hiked up to their ear holding the phone etc.) and stress; most people hold stress and therefore tension in their neck and shoulders and this can hold us in a chronic stress pattern.

When we become aware of our habits we have the ability to change them……STOP! Put the phone down!

Maintenance osteo treatment helps correct strain patterns in the body, allowing the tissues to be restored to optimal function and reduce the likely hood of developing an acute neck spasm.

At the first sign of a twinge (not when you’re completely incapacitated!) call your osteo and get your neck sorted. 

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