Stiff neck: what it is, the causes and how to treat it 1

Stiff neck: what it is, the causes and how to treat it

The stiff neck is a painful condition that afflicts the muscles of the neck and the cervical tract of the spine. Persistent pain and stiffness in the neck can interfere with your daily activities and cause great discomfort. Furthermore, in many cases it is problematic even to rotate only the head without having to turn the whole body. Sometimes it can also cause sleep disturbances or difficulty working, if the stiff neck causes nausea, headache and vomiting. It usually resolves spontaneously within a few days, but can be so painful that it becomes debilitating.

There can be many reasons why you suffer from stiff neck . For example, it may be a condition that you have from birth (congenital torticollis), or caused more simply by a wrong posture or a cold shot. However, it may also be due to more serious conditions such as malformations of the spine.
The good news is that in most cases it is nothing serious. You can easily cure or alleviate symptoms with natural remedies and targeted exercises. In fact, taking little precautions or changing some habits will help you prevent this annoying condition.
However, at other times it is a signal that your body is sending you that perhaps the time has come to do a check by the doctor. We see here what it is, what are the causes and strategies for preventing stiff neck.

Stiff neck: what it is

The term torcicollo derives from the Latin “tortus”, which means “twisted” and “collum”, which means “neck”.

The stiff neck is an abnormal and painful contracture of the cervical muscles that manifests itself with stiffness and pain. Underlying this condition are, for the most part, inflammatory processes in progress. It is a condition above all characterized by discomfort and difficulty in moving the neck, especially trying to turn the head sideways. It can also be accompanied by:
  shoulder or arm pain.
Not only that, to turn around and look sideways, you may find yourself having to turn the whole body.
The stiff neck can occur either in the morning as soon as you wake up, or during the day, especially if you have done strenuous activities or sudden or abrupt movements.
In 2010 it was reported that more than 17% of women and 12% of men suffer from neck pain or stiffness . Unfortunately, the number is increasing because we are increasingly dependent on mobile phones and computers and this leads us to turn our necks in anomalous positions for too long periods.Anatomy of the neck muscles

To understand which areas have torticollis, let’s see how this part of our body is structured.
First the neck, together with the chest, abdomen and pelvis form the trunk. The entire trunk is supported by the spine or spine. The vertebral column is formed by superimposed and articulated bone segments: the vertebrae.
The spine can also be divided into 4 main sections:
  1. cervical: formed by 7 cervical vertebrae (stiff neck and neck pain affect this part of the back),
  2. thoracic or dorsal: formed by 12 thoracic vertebrae,
  3. lumbar: formed by 5 lumbar vertebrae,
  4. pelvic: formed by the sacrum and coccyx.
Instead, the neck muscles are divided into:
  1. back of the neck (muscles in the deep layer and superficial layer),
  2. anterior neck (suprahyoid, subioid and pre-vertebral muscles)
  3. side of the neck.
Types of torticollis

Types of torticollis

In addition to the common torticollis, there are more serious forms : congenital torticollis and cervical dystonia.


“Congenital” indicates a condition present at birth. Congenital torticollis is characterized by a lateral inclination of the head on one side and a contralateral rotation. It is more commonly the result of shortening and unilateral thickening or excessive contraction of the sternocleidomastoid muscle.It can be of two types:

Myogenic congenital torticollis : is the most common form of congenital torticollis. It is caused by a congenital dysplasia of the sternocleidomastoid muscle that forms in the intrauterine life.Congenital osteogenic torticollis : it is caused by bone malformations of the cervical vertebrae.

Experts do not know exactly what causes the shortening of the neck muscle. However, it is possible that the muscle could be injured before or during the birth of the child. The injured muscle can thus bleed and swell and the scar tissue can replace part of the muscle, making it shorter.

Cervical dystonia

Cervical dystonia , also called spasmodic torticollis, is a painful condition in which the muscles of the neck contract involuntarily, causing torsion or rotation of the head on one side. Cervical dystonia can also cause an uncontrolled inclination of the head forward or backward.
A rare disease that can occur at any age, cervical dystonia most often characterizes middle-aged people, women rather than men. The symptoms generally begin gradually and then reach a point from which they do not substantially deteriorate.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for cervical dystonia.
Sometimes it resolves without treatment, but prolonged remissions are not common.’ injection of botulinum toxin in the affected muscles often reduces the signs and symptoms. Surgery may be appropriate in some cases.
If you want to learn more about cervical dystonia , consult the Italian Dystonia Research Association.

Stiff neck: symptoms

The most common symptoms present in a person with torticollis are:
  1. head rotated to one side and one shoulder higher than the other,
  2. swollen neck muscles,
  3. persistent pain and stiffness in the neck area,
  4. struggling to move the neck normally,
  5. pain that can spread to shoulders, arms, hands and fingers,
  6. headache,
  7. He retched,
  8. drowsiness,
  9. irritability.
Stiff neck: the causes

Stiff neck: the causes

The reasons that can cause the onset of stiff neck are many. If the symptoms last more than 3 months then we speak of chronic torticollis .
Some causes can be:
  1. prolonged unsuitable positions (in studying, writing, calling, driving, sleeping, etc.)
  2. sudden and abrupt movements of the head
  3. inflammatory processes
  4. excessive muscle fatigue
  5. presence of a state of anxiety that induces tension
  6. cold or wind blow
  7. neck or spine trauma
  8. lymph node inflammation in the neck
  9. throat abscesses
  10. sinus infections, in the ears, jaw, teeth or scalp.
There are also less common causes of torticollis that arise from pre-existing conditions or malformations of the cervical spine.
Some examples are:
  1. herniated cervical disc
  2. degenerative disease of the cervical disc
  3. cervical osteoarthritis.

Stiff neck: when to seek medical attention

If the stiff neck is prolonged beyond the week, it is advisable to consult your doctor to find out if it is necessary to investigate the causes that lead to neck immobility and pain. Also, be careful of other symptoms that may overlap with those of a stiff neck:
  1. headache
  2. backache
  3. shoulder pain.
In these cases, the doctor may prescribe an MRI to verify the origin of the disorder.
When the following ailments are associated with the stiff neck, it is better to go to the emergency room:
difficulty breathing and / or swallowing
weakness and / or numbness in the limbs.

How to treat a stiff neck

Generally the treatments vary depending on the frequency of the stiff neck and from what caused it. In fact, the treatment varies from person to person. If it is a more sporadic condition, you will benefit with
  1. massages
  2. gentle movements
  3. hot packs.
Instead, if the stiff neck tends to repeat itself with a certain frequency , it is advisable to have a specialist examination and possibly a pharmacological treatment prescribed by the doctor.
Pain can also be a sign of deep emotional tension.
In this case, it would be appropriate to adopt anti-stress strategies such as yoga and pilates, which help to loosen the muscles and align the posture.

Physiotherapy or osteopathy

If you think that stiff neck is therefore due to a wrong posture, schedule a cycle of sessions with the physiotherapist and the osteopath.

How to treat stiff neck with medications

In the event of cervical dystonia , the doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories.In fact, these drugs have the ability to eliminate symptoms completely within a few days. The most frequently prescribed medicines are:

Some doctors give these drugs by venereal or directly into the muscle . Muscle relaxants or benzodiazepines (such as Valium) are taken orally for 48-72 hours to prevent symptoms from returning.
In the case of chronic torticollis , some neurologists also prescribe local Botox injections . In fact, botox derives from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum and acts locally to prevent muscle contraction . This remedy can often completely block a possible worsening of the stiff neck and lead to a complete recovery.
In some cases, if the pain is too intense, it is also recommended to use the orthopedic collar that can help with the symptoms and speed up healing.

Natural remedies

Remedies to cure torticollis naturally
Copper trace element: useful for relieving pain from  inflammation, too.  Take up to 4 vials a day.
Magnesium trace element: useful for those with a tendency to Somatize muscle tension and stress and suffer of spasms and cramps.  One vial a day before going to sleep, at least for a month.
Arnica ointment: it is pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory.If you wish to enhance it, add some essential oil of blue chamomile.
 – Peppermint: reduces pain.
Arnica homeopathic granules in dilution 5 or 7CH: e painkilling. Dissolve 3 granules under the tongue from meals, every 15 minutes.

Neck pain: what to do

Heat therapy . Cover your neck with a scarf or apply a local tablet. This gives immediate relief by relaxing the contracted muscles . You can also perform a gentle massage on the painful part to relax the muscle and relax it.

Wrap for torticollis

Salt packs

Heat a handful of salt in the oven for a few minutes or in a non-stick pan. Pour the hot salt into a cotton pillowcase and rest on the area to be treated.
You can cover it all with a wool blanket so as not to disperse the heat. You can reuse the salt 5 or 6 times.

Ginger wraps

Heat the water in a large pot. When the boil begins, turn off and add 50 grams of grated ginger root or a tablespoon of dry powder. Mix well. Dip a towel, squeeze and place on the painful part. Insulate the part with another 2 towel sheets above and below for not too much heat.

Exercises for stiff neck

If you suffer, avoid standing still but, instead, loosen the muscles with small slow and sweet movements throughout the day.
Start with a slight rotation of the head (like when you want to say no).
First in one direction then in the other. Switch to a lateral flexion of the neck, towards one shoulder then the other.
Do the gesture of yes slowly. Finally let the head fall forward towards the chest.
Hold this position for a few seconds to stretch the cervical spine.

Detox diet for stiff neck

It is important to supplement your diet with anti-inflammatory foods rich in Omega 6 and Omega 3 (cold-pressed seed oils, dried fruits, flax seeds).
Furthermore, the consumption of foods rich in magnesium is increased to reduce muscle tension. Magnesium is found for example in:
  1. Whole grains
  2. dried fruit
  3. seaweed
  4. green vegetables.
Drink 1-2 liters of natural mineral water every day. In fact, maintaining hydration means that the fabrics are always elastic.
It consumes whole grains, an excellent source of salts and trace elements. Instead, avoid grains and refined sugars because they deplete your bones and muscles.
Infini, take right amounts of vitamin D, essential for bone health. It is found in green leafy vegetables, algae (kombu), fruit (grapes and figs).
Vitamin D absorption is aided by the presence of silicon in the same meal and vitamin C (lemon juice).
Silicon is found in filamentous vegetables such as celery, ribs, artichokes, fennel etc.

Chinese medicine

Stimulate a point of the hand called acupuncture “stiff neck”. The point is found on the back, in a dimple between the knuckles of index and middle , going towards the wrist. Press with your fingernail for at least 30 seconds several times in a row and try to move your neck at the same time. This serves to unblock the immobilized neck.
There is a second point to press if you feel improvement with the first one. It is found by closing the hand in a fist, on the side of the little finger is a fold where you can see the skin protruding. The point is on the upper edge of the little hole, on the border between white and red skin. Press the point as shown above. The hand to be treated corresponds to the side where the neck is contracted.

How to prevent a stiff neck

The stiff neck can easily be prevented with simple changes to one’s lifestyle. Sometimes it just means eliminating bad habits, such as incorrect posture.
Here are some tips:
After the acute phase, dedicate a few minutes a day to the exercises reported in the previous paragraph. This keeps the cervical area relaxed.
Create an ergonomic or work environment . System the computer so that it is level with your eyes. Use an ergonomic mouse keyboard. Get up and do some stretching every hour. Sit with your back straight and your arms level with your desk. Place the chair in a comfortable position: keep your feet fully resting on the floor and your knees lower than your hips.
Don’t spend too much time in front of your cell phone. Keep bending over to look at it, causing stress in the neck. Try raising your phone to eye level and don’t hold it between your ear and your shoulder. Try using earphones regularly and take a break at least every hour from your phone.
Do not drive for long periods . Like sitting in front of the computer, so even driving for long periods can stiffen your neck.
Change the position during the night . Sleeping turned to one side or on your back, puts less pressure on your neck than sleeping on your stomach. It would also be advisable to buy a pillow specifically for the neck or a firmer mattress.
Reduce your stress levels . Try yoga, meditation, travel or vacation, listen to relaxing music, take time to do something you are passionate about.
Exercise regularly . Exercise helps strengthen muscles and prevent injuries. Furthermore, sport helps improve posture and prevent neck stiffness. Finally, it is also an excellent way to get rid of stress.

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