Whether it’s while you’re busy with daily work tasks or hurriedly trying to get your kids ready for their school day, a neck spasm often occurs when it’s least expected. In fact, all it takes is one awkward movement for muscles in your neck to suddenly and involuntarily tighten. Tension related to emotional stress can also cause neck-supporting muscles to unexpectedly constrict. Luckily, there are some things you can do to alleviate the sudden discomfort felt from a neck muscle spasm.
Minor or fairly mild neck muscle spasms tend to respond well to gentle stretching. The purpose of doing this is to loosen up and soften your neck-supporting muscles. Specifically, target your lateral neck muscles—the ones responsible for allowing joints in your neck to smoothly move. Try the following stretches:
• Tilting your head to one side so it touches your shoulder and holding it until you feel the stretch • Gently rotating your head in a circular motion (neck rolls) • Leaning your head forward and back and from one side to the other
Note: Stop any neck stretches that worsen your pain.
If your spasms are caused by a more serious underlying issue, such as a diseased or bulging cervical disc, treatment to relieve your pain may be more complicated, including replacing the damaged disc with a Mobi-C artificial disc. Los Angeles residents should see a spinal health specialist if their neck spasms are severe, frequent, or continue without relief for a sustained period.
Gentle pressure placed on the right spots in your neck can relax tight muscles and reduce your odds of being distracted by neck muscle spasms. One way to target the right muscles in your neck area is to treat yourself to a massage. If you want to go the self-massage route, consider using a foam roller under your neck while lying on a supportive mat. Chiropractic adjustments may produce similar benefits.
When neck muscles become tight, they often become irritated or inflamed, which can make the pain from a neck spasm even worse. Ease your inflamed neck muscles by using over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs won’t address the underlying cause of your neck spasms, but they may provide much-appreciated temporary relief.
Cold eases neck spasm pain by reducing inflammation, and heat works by increasing circulation to the affected area and stimulating the body’s natural healing processes. There are several ways you can safely apply cold and/or heat to your neck when a painful spasm occurs. Options include:
• Filling a bag with ice and wrapping it in a thin towel • Applying topical heating or cooling gel to your neck • Using a heating pad on the low setting • Taking a warm bath or shower
Note: Limit heat/ice applications to 15–20 minutes at a time every few hours to prevent skin damage.
For times when your neck muscle spasms are primarily due to the various forms of stress in your life, ease the tension in your neck by taking a moment to relax. One option is to rest on your back in a quiet room with a cervical pillow or neck roll under your head and a pillow between your knees. Some other relaxation techniques that may help you experience fewer neck spasms include:
• Playing relaxing music • Meditating or practicing deep breathing exercises • Taking a yoga class to learn how to release tension from your body while enjoying a gentle form of exercise
If occasional neck spasms are accompanied by lingering or recurring neck pain, see what your doctor has to say. To rule out structural problems with the vertebrae, discs, joints, and nerves in your neck, you may be referred to a Los Angeles spine surgeon for further evaluation. The pioneering physicians at The Spine Institute have years of experience diagnosing and treating all forms of neck and back pain and employing the most innovative treatment methods. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a personal consultation.