Characterized by soreness and pain triggered by movement, neck stiffness is a fairly common complaint. In most instances, this type of neck pain is a temporary inconvenience not related to a serious medical condition. Knowing what triggers to avoid, or at least when to check with your doctor or a reputable spine surgeon Santa Monica patients can turn to, may minimize your experiences with neck stiffness. Here are 3 things that might be causing stiffness in your neck.
1. Muscle Strain
Any muscle directly or indirectly supporting the neck can become a source of pain if overstretched or pulled beyond its natural range of motion. Connecting the neck with the shoulder, the levator scapulae muscle is especially susceptible to strain. Neck strain may also be triggered by:
- Awkward sleeping positions
- Carrying heavy bags or purses
- Excessive downward glances at various devices (“text neck”)
2. Cervical Spine Conditions
Neck stiffness is sometimes a symptom of a structural problem in the neck. Any of the 7 bones of the cervical spine and corresponding joints and spongy discs may be affected by an injury or normal wear and tear. Cervical spine conditions possibly resulting in neck stiffness and pain include:
- Cervical disc herniation – Occurs when discs in the neck slip or bulge when inner disc material pushes outward
- Spinal stenosis – Sometimes aggravated by osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis of the neck limits space occupied by nerve roots
- Cervical degenerative disc disease – Discs become damaged due to age-related degeneration
Considered rare but serious enough to warrant immediate medical attention, neck stiffness accompanied by a headache or a high fever may be a sign of meningitis or a similar infection. Related symptoms sometimes include:
- Limited range of motion
- Unexplained fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
Treatment for neck stiffness is often as simple as taking a few days to rest and allow the injured tissues time to heal. You may also benefit from gentle side-to-side stretches, the use of heat or ice, anti-inflammatory medications, and paying attention to posture and sleep positions. For more severe pain, you may want to inquire about spinal fusion surgery or other minimally invasive alternatives.
If your neck pain has become too difficult to manage, reach out to Dr. Hyun Bae at The Spine Institute Center. Dr. Bae specializes in fusion procedures like spinal decompression. Santa Monica patients trust in the expert surgeons at The Spine Institute. Call 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment and find out why.