It’s not uncommon to have these sorts of pains, though, as technology has literally made some things so convenient we barely have to move anymore. With lack of movement comes tightening of muscles and one of the muscles that do get hurt is our neck. Neck pain or a stiff neck is a common problem and generally nothing to worry about. The pain and stiffness usually gets better after a few days or weeks, and is rarely a sign of a more serious problem. You can get a painful or stiff neck if you sleep in an awkward position, use a computer for a prolonged period of time, or strain a muscle because of bad posture.
I’m sure you’ve felt some form of neck strain specially when you’re working a 9-5 desk job. This makes neck exercises an absolute necessity. Neck exercises are a common part of almost any treatment program for neck pain. A typical neck exercise program will consist of a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises, aerobic conditioning, and possibly trigger point exercises.
Main Causes of Neck Pain
1. A twisted or locked neck
Some people suddenly wake up one morning to find their neck twisted to one side and stuck in that position. This is known as acute torticollis and is caused by injury to the neck muscles. The exact cause of acute torticollis is unknown, but it may be caused by bad posture, sleeping without adequate neck support, or carrying heavy unbalanced loads (for example, carrying a heavy bag with one arm). Acute torticollis can take up to a week to get better, but it usually only lasts 24 to 48 hours.
2. Wear and tear in the neck
Sometimes neck pain is caused by the “wear and tear” that occurs to the bones and joints in your neck. This is a type of arthritis called cervical spondylosis. Cervical spondylosis occurs naturally with age. It does not always cause symptoms, although in some people the bone changes can cause neck stiffness. Nearby nerves can also be squashed, resulting in pain that radiates from the arms, pins and needles, and numbness in the hands and legs. Most cases will improve with treatment in a few weeks.
Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways. It often occurs after a sudden impact such as a road traffic accident. The vigorous movement of the head overstretches and damages the tendons and ligaments in the neck. As well as neck pain and stiffness, whiplash can cause tenderness in the neck muscles, reduced and painful neck movements, and headaches.
4. Pinched nerve
Neck pain caused by a squashed nerve is known as cervical radiculopathy. It’s usually caused by one of the discs between the bones of the upper spine (vertebrae) splitting open and the gel inside bulging outwards on to a nearby nerve. The condition is more common in older people because your spinal discs start to lose their water content as you get older, making them less flexible and more likely to split.
The pain can sometimes be controlled with painkillers and by following the advice below, although surgery may be recommended for some people.
More serious causes
Your neck pain may have a more serious cause if it’s persistent and getting progressively worse, or you have additional symptoms, such as:
- a lack of co-ordination you may find fiddly tasks increasingly difficult
- problems walking
- loss of bladder or bowel control
- a high temperature (fever)
- unexplained weight loss
A serious cause is more likely if you have recently had a significant injury for example, you were involved in a car accident or had a fall or you have a history of cancer or conditions that weaken your immune system, such as HIV. See your GP if you are concerned.
Benefits of Neck Exercises
Chronic neck pain can be debilitating and can also be accompanied by pain in your upper back, shoulder blades, and bouts of headaches. These symptoms, along with tight neck muscles and stiff joints, can make even the simplest daily activities painful.
Flexibility and stretching exercises can expand or preserve the range of motion and elasticity in affected cervical (neck) joints, and thus relieve the stiffness that leads to pain. As a general rule, neck stretching is best done everyday, and some stretches should be done several times a day.
Whether you slept in a funky position last night or you have been sitting and staring tensely at your computer for hours on end, neck pain happens. And a crick in the neck is not only annoying and painful, but it can also lead to headaches and upper back pain.
To help reduce the aches and pains try these satisfying stretches. After taking a long, hot shower to help loosen the muscles, use one or both exercises for a little instant relief. You’ll feel better and maybe youll even stand a bit taller.
1. Corner Stretch
A basic exercise that is important for stretching the chest and shoulder muscles is the corner stretch. It is performed in the corner of a room.
This neck stretch is done as follows:
- Patients stand approximately two feet back from the corner, facing into the corner.
- Feet should be together.
- Forearms are placed on each wall, and elbows are a little below shoulder height.
- Lean in as far as possible without pain. Patients will feel a stretch in the front of the shoulders and chest.
- Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds to a minute.
This stretch can be performed 3 to 5 times per day. It should be done before doing any neck strengthening exercises.
2. Levator Scapula Stretch
The levator scapula stretch is also important for eliminating neck pain. The levator scapula is a muscle that often becomes tight and may be very tender where it attaches to the shoulder blade. This stretch can be performed while sitting or standing.
- Lengthen the muscle by raising the elbow above the shoulder on the side to stretch.
- In this position, first rest the elbow against a door jamb. This rotates the outside of shoulder blade up and the inside of it down, which lengthens the levator scapula muscle.
- Second, turn the head away from the side that is stretching and bring the chin down, stretching the back of the neck.
- Third, place the fingers of the other hand on the top of the head and gently pull the head forward increasing the stretch slightly.
- Hold this for about 30 seconds to a minute.