When a muscle in the body is stretched out beyond its capacity, it reacts to protect itself from damage or tear by contracting, causing a muscle spasm. Even though spasms are extremely painful, there are usually short lived and go away within a week or two. Spasms can occur in different parts of the body leading to different symptoms. In this post, we’ll discuss the causes for muscle spasms in neck and shoulders and how to effectively treat them.
What is Neck Muscle Spasm?
A neck muscle spasm is caused by an involuntary contraction of the muscles in the neck region. Some neck spasms occur close to the spinal cord, putting pressure on the sensitive nerve endings causing severe pain. Some neck spasms may cause the head to jerk or turn involuntarily.
Causes of Neck Muscle Spasm
The most common causes for muscle spasm in neck include muscle sprain or strain, sleeping in an awkward position for a prolonged period of time, physical exertion such as carrying a heavy object or doing strenuous workouts, weakness, or stress. In addition, neck spasms can be symptoms of a disorder such as cervical dystonia, cervical spondylosis, fibromyalgia, meningitis, osteomyelitis, herniated disc, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, tension headache, or whiplash (sudden jerking of the head such as when involved in a car accident). Neck spasms may also occur as a side effect of taking certain medications.
Treatment for Muscle Spasms in Neck
Neck spasm is usually not a serious condition. It can usually be treated using certain simple home remedies.
You can take doses of paracetamol or ibuprofen tablets or apply ibuprofen gel as an alternative to tablets.
Gentle Massage with Packs
You can massage the affected area with a heat pack. Sometimes, cold packs also work. Use one that works best for you.
Sleep on a low firm pillow and avoid using too many pillows, which might cause your neck to rest in an unnatural position. Also make sure that your mattress is not soft but firm. Soft mattresses tend to put more pressure on the neck.
Make sure you have a good posture, whether you are sitting or standing, as it could have been the cause for the pain in the first place. If you have a desk job, make sure you take regular breaks.
Avoid Neck Collars
Some people tend to wear a neck collar to help relieve the pain, but there is no proof to suggest that it helps. Avoid using the collar and keep your neck mobile.
Avoid activities that make it difficult for you to turn your head such as driving.
Perform Simple Neck Exercises
Do some simple neck exercises such as gently tilting the head up and down and side to side. Slowly and carefully twist your neck from left to right. You can download a list of neck exercises and check out videos of simple neck exercises at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website.
Stress can also cause neck spasms. Make sure you perform relaxation techniques to ease the tension in your mind and body and your neck will benefit from it.
If the muscle spasms in neck show no signs of improving even after a week and the painkillers are not able to control the pain, it may be a sign of something more serious. Your doctor will prescribe additional medicines or refer you to a physiotherapist if necessary. Get immediate medical attention if you are experiencing extreme symptoms such as loss of sensation in the arms, loss of balance, or a stiff neck with symptoms of high fever, headache, nausea or vomiting.