Most people have experienced neck muscle issues at some point in life. Whether it’s a standard neck cramp or neck spasm, muscle pains around the neck region could be unpleasant. Numerous possible causes give rise to this discomfort. Read on to learn more about the causes and treatments of neck spasms and cramps, especially in the United Kingdom.
What are neck spasms and cramps?
Neck spasms are involuntary contractions of the neck muscles. Typically, the spasms are harmless but could sometimes be painful and cause discomfort. Cramps, on the other hand, are painful sensations resulting from the involuntary contraction of a muscle. Painful neck muscle spasms are referred to as neck cramps.
Painful neck spasms could cause drowsiness and headaches. The pain could last for minutes, hours, or even days after the spasm subsides, and the muscle relaxes. The pain ranges from sharp to achy sensations with a stiff neck.
Fortunately, they can be easily treated with some over-the-counter medications, home remedies and exercises at home. Chronic cases of neck spasms can also require medical attention.
Causes of neck spasm
There are several causes of neck spasms. Some are more common or serious than others. Common causes include:
- Repeated or prolonged movement of the neck.
- Lifting heavy weights.
- Bad posture, such as slouching while walking, sitting or standing.
- Sleeping in an unfavourable position.
- Placing too much weight over one shoulder, for instance, with a bag.
- Emotional stress
- Neck strain or sprain during exercise.
More severe causes of neck spasms include
- Trauma or whiplash
- Meningitis (Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes, caused by a viral, bacteria or fungal infection).
- Torticollis or cervical dystonia ( neck muscle tissues tighten involuntarily, making the head twist to one side).
- Cervical spondylosis ( a type of arthritis that affects the spine).
- Ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory condition of the spine causing vertebrae to fuse.
- Spinal stenosis (open spaces in the spine)
- Herniated disc
- Temporomandibular joint disorders affect the jaw and surrounding muscles.
Casual ways to get neck spasms
Here are some common casual ways people get neck strains or sprains leading to neck spasms.
- Spending extended periods on a smartphone, television or computer.
- Sleeping in an unfavourable position. Try sleeping on your back or side and not on your stomach. Use a comfortable pillow that’s not too high or stiff and a firm mattress.
- Engaging in certain strenuous sports or other physical activities like weight lifting.
- Carrying heavy backpacks.
Neck spasm symptoms
Some of the symptoms to expect alongside neck spasms include the following.
- Stiff neck. This particular symptom reduces the range of motion of the head. Turning to look sideways could prove painful and inconvenient. As a result, the movement is stopped and avoided. The intensity varies from sharp and limiting to extremely painful and uncomfortable. As a result of this symptom, some actions, such as driving, might need to be put on hold.
- Increased tension, sudden tightness, and pain in the neck muscles. You might experience some tightness in the neck muscles along with the pain. The neck muscles feel tighter or hard, causing pain when moving the neck or head around.
- Neck twitching
- Muscle spasms
- Stabbing or burning neck pains from holding the head in a specific place for an extended period. An example is while at work on a PC or computer.
- An overall decreased ability for head movement.
- A persistent ache.
- Increased sensitivity to mild pressure applied to the neck.
- Sometimes there might be tingling sensations in one or both arms.
How do you relieve neck spasms?
Besides treatments, there are other methods to relieve neck spasms. These methods include basic neck stretch exercises and home remedies.
Basic neck stretches
To do a basic neck stretch, follow the procedure below.
- First, place your right hand at the back of your head from the top.
- Next, pull your head downwards, bringing your chin toward the right side of the chest.
- Relax your muscles and hold this position for about fifteen seconds.
- Repeat the same on the left side. In all, do the exercise thrice on each side.
Another stretch is the scalene stretch. To do this stretch:
- Stand or sit with both arms hanging down your sides.
- Reaching your lower back, grab your left wrist with your right hand.
- Gently pull your left arm by the wrist with your right hand while you tilt your head to the right side. The aim is to feel a slight stretch in your neck.
- Hold this pull position for about fifteen to thirty seconds before releasing.
- Repeat the stretch procedure on each side at least three times.
Neck curl and head lift
Another simple stretch exercise is the neck curl and head lift. To do this stretch:
- Lay down, taking a sit-up position.
- Place your hands behind your head and draw your chin towards your chest.
- Lift your head off the floor while keeping your shoulders placed on the floor.
- Repeat the procedure five times.
Home remedies for neck spasms
Home remedies might be convenient and helpful when dealing with unexpected neck cramps. Use one or two of any of these methods to relieve neck spasms.
- Stress management
Stress significantly impacts one’s health, and a common physical manifestation is muscle pain. Stress could trigger neck spasms, so it’s crucial to take adequate breaks regularly. Besides work, you can get stressed from exercising or weight lifting frequently. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga could help ease neck pains and relieve stress.
A 2008 study shows that workers who engaged in stress-relieving activities were less prone to neck, back and shoulder pains than those who didn’t participate.
- Over-the-counter analgesic meds
Sometimes, the pain from neck spasms, sprains or cramps might be unforgiving. You should know some over-the-counter pain relievers to help with the pain. Some of these include:
- Naproxen sodium
Most of these medications aim to reduce inflammations that could aggravate neck pains. As a result, both muscle tension and pain subside. Ensure you read the dosage requirements, as they could differ across age ranges.
- Ice pack
Applying a pack of ice or frozen peas to sore locations on the body is not uncommon. To relieve neck spasms and cramps, wrap a towel or cloth around an ice pack and hold it on the neck muscle site. Alternatively, you could use frozen peas as a cold compress. Making use of a cold compress might provide relief.
Apply the ice packs for about ten minutes. This method proves effective, especially in the first couple of days after experiencing a neck spasm. Repeat the procedure once an hour as often as possible for the first two to three days.
- Heat therapy
Heat therapy could also provide relief from neck spasms. Try applying a heating pad to the sour neck muscle region, or better yet, take a warm shower. Alternatively, you could warm up a towel or cloth and place it on the sour neck region. Ensure that the water or heating pad temperature isn’t too much to handle to avoid burns.
Follow the instructions that come with the heating pad if you use one. The manuals sometimes advise placing a thin cloth between the skin and the pad.
Nothing like a good body massage to get rid of neck muscle cramps. Deep tissue massage, for instance, targets deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, getting rid of muscle knots, tension and pain. You can quickly get a home treatment massage to deal with neck spasms and cramps. Even short massages are adequate, as stated by a 2014 source.
You don’t have to book a session with a masseuse or masseur to get a neck massage. You can give yourself one by gently and firmly pressing into the tightened parts of your neck muscle tissue. Move your fingers gently in small circular motions. Apply a soothing balm or oil such as coconut, jojoba, sweet almond oil, or essential oils like rosemary and ginger for a relaxing aromatherapy vibe.
- Light activity
Although rest is crucial to recovery, avoid total inactivity. Engage in light, less strenuous activities. Gentle stretches from yoga or walking could help relax your body, keep you off heavy activities and reduce stress levels.
Are neck spasms serious?
Neck spasms could occur at night, sometimes making it difficult to sleep. You could experience a neck cramp when yawning, possibly indicating a long night with involuntary neck twitching or a stiff neck. If this pain seems chronic and won’t bulge despite several home remedies, you need to immediately seek medical attention.
There are several ranges of treatments applicable in such cases. Your healthcare provider may prescribe strong pain relief medication, anti-inflammatory drugs or muscle relaxants. If all the aforementioned treatments prove ineffective, you may need a proper advanced treatment such as steroids and Botulinum Toxin Type A.
Best treatments for neck spasms in the UK
Botulinum Toxin Type A injection also known as Botox offered by Dr Nina Bal of Facial Sculpting clinic is considered one of the best treatments for neck spasms in the UK. According to research, Botulinum Toxin Type A has antinociceptive properties that make it possible for it to aid muscle relaxation and relief of neck spasms better than other treatment strategies.
Even though botox is a common cosmetic treatment used to improve the appearance of facial wrinkles, it can relax the muscles and treat uncontrolled muscular construction when it is directly injected into the painful muscles. Muscular contraction is a result of a signal sent by the brain to the muscles to contract. When Botox is injected into painful muscles, it blocks such signals sent by the brain. The botox injection will gradually relieve your pain and prevent neck stiffness for three to four months.
Dr Nina Bal has successfully treated several cases of neck spasm, bruxism, hyperhidrosis and a host of other conditions. The first step to getting botox treatment for neck spasms from Dr Nina Bal is to book a consultation with her. She will carefully examine your condition and administer a personalized treatment. She may even prescribe physical therapy after the botox injection for better results.
How to Prevent neck spasms
Here are some things to do to help prevent neck spasms.
- Regularly take a break from your screens. Leave your phone, TV and laptop for a while. Take a walk.
- Manage your stress by exercising regularly. That said, moderation is key.
- Try to maintain a proper walking, standing and sitting posture.
- Engage in posture-strengthening exercises such as pilates.
- Stretch often, especially at the earliest sign of a neck cramp.
- Make use of a firm mattress, supportive pillows and good sleeping posture.
- Adjust your desk or table height to use your PC or phone without slouching.
Neck spasms and neck cramps could be very frustrating to have. The limitations imposed on your head movement and neck motility could make some actions difficult. Ensure you use any of the several available remedies to ease the effects of neck spasms. Do not hesitate to consult a medical expert if the symptoms get worse.