Neck stiffness is a common yet disruptive problem that affects many people across the globe. It can stem from various causes, ranging from poor posture to more serious conditions like osteoarthritis.
Here at Trimetrics Physiotherapy in North Vancouver, our team of professionals is committed to helping you understand your condition, manage your symptoms, and recover effectively.
Common Causes of Neck Stiffness
The first step towards recovery is understanding what might be causing your neck stiffness. Some common causes include:
- Poor Posture: Spending long hours hunched over your computer or smartphone can strain your neck muscles. There are some postures that are better than others but for folks who sit a lot the ideal posture is one that changes often through the day.
- Sleeping Position: An awkward sleeping position can result in a stiff neck when you wake up. Tummy sleepers have to turn their necks to one side and they often present with more sleep position issues. Those who sleep on their backs have to find the balance between enough vs too much neck support. Side laying sleepers should ideally find a pillow solution so that their necks remain in a neutral position and are neither dropped down to the mattress nor shoved upwards towards the ceiling.
- Stress: High levels of stress can lead to muscle tension, including in your neck. Most of us can relate to this contributor to neck stiffness and there are many ways to help relieve stress from our lives.
- Osteoarthritis: This refers to a degenerative joint disease that can cause stiffness and pain in the neck. Osteoarthritis (OA) has often been called “wear and tear” arthritis however we now understand that there are many factors that contribute to OA, including genetics and diet or lifestyle factors that can contribute.
Simple Exercises and Stretches for a Stiff Neck
Alongside professional treatment, there are simple exercises and stretches you can do at home to alleviate neck stiffness:
- Neck Tilt: Tilt your head forward, then slowly back. Repeat this exercise 5-10 times.
- Neck Turn: Look over one shoulder, then slowly turn your head to look over the other shoulder. Repeat this 5-10 times.
These first two exercises help to improve neck joint lubrication and nutrition. If you notice some noise while you do these (eg cracking or clicking or grinding) but no pain then please continue. If there’s any discomfort associated with the movements then please give us a call to assess the issue further.
3. Chin Tuck – Head Lift: While laying on your back, tuck your chin and then lift your head as if to look at your toes. You should feel the muscles in the front of your neck working and you may also feel some stretch in the back of the neck and upper back. Try performing one set to fatigue. We can build on this exercise pattern by adding in some additional movements.
Remember, these exercises should never cause pain. If they do, stop immediately and consult with one of us at Trimetrics.
How Physiotherapy Can Help Treat Neck Stiffness
Physiotherapy can significantly aid in your recovery from neck stiffness. Our physiotherapists at Trimetrics will provide:
- A personalized care plan: We call this your treatment action plan and it’s a big picture overview of your diagnosis, contributing factors, treatment suggestions, milestones and timelines. We also share this with your doctor to help ensure that we’re all on the same page.
- Manual Therapy: Your physio may use any number of hands-on treatment techniques to improve the function and health of the neck joints, the neck muscles, tendons and ligaments, or the nerves and blood vessels of the neck.
- Exercise: Stiff neck joints usually require strength and stabilization exercise and also joint lubrication and nutrition. We aim to not only treat your symptoms but also address the root cause of your neck stiffness. Even with long standing or chronic neck pain conditions we can usually make significant impacts to improve your quality of life and ability to participate in your favourite life activities.
Tips to Relieve Neck Pain & Stiffness
While physiotherapy is a highly effective treatment method, there are other things you can do to help reduce neck pain and stiffness.
- Heat or Cold Therapy
Applying heat or cold to your neck can help to reduce inflammation and ease pain. A warm shower or a heating pad can help to relax tense muscles, while an ice pack can help to numb the pain and reduce swelling. Always remember to wrap heat or cold sources in a towel before applying them directly to your skin to avoid burns or frostbite.
- Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers
Non-prescription medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can provide temporary relief from neck pain. However, these should be used sparingly and only as directed by a physician, as long-term use can lead to other health issues.
- Massage Therapy
Massage therapy can be extremely beneficial in relieving neck stiffness. A professional massage therapist can target specific areas of tension in your neck, helping to increase blood flow, reduce muscle tension, and promote overall relaxation. Ask your physio if there are specific postures that will help during your massage to maximize the effectiveness of your session.
- Ergonomic Adjustments
Making changes to your work or home environment can also help alleviate neck stiffness. Consider investing in an ergonomic chair or standing desk, or adjusting your computer monitor so it’s at eye level to prevent you from straining your neck.
RELATED READING: Ergonomic Tips to Optimize Your Work Set-up, Time, and Energy
Remember, what works best will depend on the underlying cause of your neck stiffness, your overall health condition, and personal preferences. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment regimen. At Trimetrics Physiotherapy, our team can help devise a personalized treatment plan that best suits your needs.
Along these lines we should also mention that exercises and treatments that target the mid back will typically help posture as well as neck symptoms.
Your Journey to Recovery Starts Here
Don’t let neck stiffness hold you back from living your life to the fullest. At Trimetrics Physiotherapy in North Vancouver, we’re dedicated to helping you regain mobility and live pain-free. Contact us today to schedule your appointment and start your journey to recovery. Because here at Trimetrics, your health is our top priority.