Muscle spasms can happen anywhere in the body. However, when they occur in your neck, it can cause intense neck pain. Moreover, it can result in a loss in your normal range of motion. The pain of neck spasms can range from a dull ache to sharp, stabbing pain. Most people experience waking up with a painful, stiff neck that makes it difficult to turn the head. The likely culprit of this is a neck muscle spasm, and the pain and discomfort can last for hours or even days. A neck spasm usually comes on suddenly but can sometimes creep up gradually and come along with a headache, dizziness, and vision changes that arise from the inability to hold the head in a neutral position.
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The muscles in the head and neck perform many important jobs. The most prominent role is movement, but these muscles control other vital functions such as speech, chewing, swallowing, facial expression, and even breathing. Your neck muscles attach to various bones of the spine, skull, shoulders, collarbones, and thorax. Each muscle is supplied by nerves to control movement and blood vessels to provide energy and nutrition to the muscle tissue.
Think about the movements your head can make:
Each of these movements requires a complex and coordinated action of the muscles of your head and neck. Everyday tasks such as looking over your shoulder to check your blind spot while driving, keeping your eye on the ball before taking a baseball swing, and swallowing your food require correct neck muscle function.
When the muscles of your neck spasm, there can be a broad range of contributing factors that lead up to the pain and loss of movement you’re experiencing. Sometimes, a muscle may spasm when trying to protect itself from overuse or instability. Muscles may also receive improper nerve signals causing them to spasm. Some of the most common reasons why this might be happening include:
When you have a neck that is tight and painful due to muscle spasm, there is a wide range of care options available to you. Some options are great for short-term symptomatic relief, but the priority should be to address the underlying cause of the problem if there’s the hope of finding a lasting solution. If you are dealing with neck spasm, the following things might be recommended to you:
gentle stretches that target tight and tender muscles can help reduce spasm. Finding stretches for the scalene and sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscles may be particularly helpful.
OTC pain relievers can help to ease symptoms of neck spasms by temporarily reducing inflammation.
icing sore muscles is usually recommended in the first two to three days following an injury or neck spasm. Ice can numb sore, painful areas and help to cool down hot, inflamed areas.
if your neck spasm has become chronic, heat therapy might soothe the pain and help you to regain normal range of motion if you have residual neck stiffness.
whether you identify tender areas on your own or visit a massage therapist, working on tense muscles and trigger points can bring you some relief.
spinal misalignments, particularly at the top of the neck where the segments are the most freely movable and prone to injury, can easily cause muscles to spasm.
One thing that the majority of causes of neck spasms outlined above have in common is the potential to be related to a spinal misalignment. The area of the neck that is most vulnerable to shifting out of proper position is where the neck meets the base of the skull. The vertebra at this vital junction is called the atlas, or C1, and it is shaped differently from all the rest because it has a unique job to do. The atlas:
When the atlas misaligns, the rest of the neck is forced into a stressed position to keep the head balanced and the eyes level. This can easily be the underlying cause for neck muscles that go into spasm and cause pain and reduced motion. By gently and precisely realigning the atlas, patients who choose upper cervical chiropractic care typically see results that are effective and long-lasting.
The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.