Stiff Neck: Causes, Symptoms and Best Neck Exercises

The cervical spine also called the neck, is a complicated structure of bones, muscles, nerves, tendons and ligaments. A delicate structure that connects the head to the rest of the body, it is made up of the first seven vertebrae of the spine. Our neck protects the spinal cord, is a vital structure for supporting the head and plays a crucial role in enabling head movements. With so many functions riding on this delicate structure, any problem to the neck quickly impacts the quality of life. Stiff neck or neck pain is one such problem that is most common among adults with its propensity to quickly worsen without adequate medical help.

In this blog with the inputs of a leading spine surgeon in UK Mr. Jwalant S Mehta, we explain the causes, symptoms and identify the best stiff neck exercises at home that can reduce neck pain and improve neck function. Read on:

What causes a stiff neck?

It happens when the muscles in the neck get strained or tensed due to overuse, stretch or even minor injury. Some of the common causes of the stiff neck include – awkward sleeping position, slouching for longer periods, fall/injury, and whiplash effect. Some of the uncommon causes of the stiff neck can be osteoarthritis, meningitis or other degenerative disc disorders.

Symptoms of a stiff neck include:

The symptoms of a stiff neck may vary based on the condition that is causing it. But the common symptoms of the stiff neck are – Reduced mobility of the head, muscle tightness, headache, and pain that worsens when holding the head at a place for longer periods.

That said thee are other symptoms are often considered to red flag symptoms which indicate an inherent problem in the cervical spine. “If the stiff neck is accompanied by fever, fatigue, nausea, coordination issues or weight loss then it could indicate that the stiff neck is caused by an underlying spinal condition which needs immediate medical assistance”, says orthopaedic spine surgeon and back pain specialist in UK Mr. Jwalant S Mehta.

Treatment for a neck pain:

Treatment for neck pain depends upon the cause that has triggered it. If the neck pain is mild then the patient can try out stretching, massaging, or application of ice (< 48hours) and OTC medications. One can evaluate the sleeping position and posture to make adequate changes and alleviate the neck pain.

Best neck exercises at home:

While it is important to rest the neck, it is also essential to gradually increase its flexibility and condition with a set of select neck exercises to enable recovery.

Here are 4 easy and important neck exercises that anyone can perform at home to enable the recovery process:

1. Neck Extension

2. Neck Flexion

3. Lateral Neck Flexion

4. Neck Rotation

The above four are the best neck exercises that form the foundation for a strong and healthy neck. Patients are advised to go slow with each of the above neck exercises and perform them only until they feels comfortable. One can increase the sets and reps gradually to further improve conditioning and recovery.