Locked neck or stiff neck is twisting of neck on one side. It is an acute condition which is often experienced when a person gets up from sleep. In medical terminology this condition is called torticollis. Locked neck is not a serious condition and usually resolves within 2 to 3 days. However, sometimes this condition may persist for a week.
Patient experiences pain and difficulty in neck movement. Locked neck is mainly caused due to injury and spasm of the neck muscle. It may also occur after long exposure to cold wind or prolonged abnormal position of neck.Although not a serious medical condition, locked neck can affect daily activities of a person. Simple muscle exercise, lifestyle changes and use of home remedies can enhance the healing process.
What Are The Causes Of A Locked Neck?
There are several causes of locked neck. The exact underlying pathology is injury to neck muscle. The injury to neck muscles is microscopic. Levator scapula muscle is susceptible to injury.
- Position of neck in awkward position while sleeping. This may cause strain to the neck muscles.
- Poor posture while doing desk work. Especially people working or viewing computer for a long time may strain the neck muscles.
- Mental stress and strain.
- Holding the neck in one position for long time. For example cradling the mobile phone between the ear and shoulder for a long time.
- Sports injuries that cause strain to neck muscle. A sudden impact or fall while playing. This type of jerk pushes the head forcefully on one side leading to microscopic tear to the muscles of neck.
Alternative Therapies For Locked Neck Muscles
Locked neck is generally a temporary problem. Even without medication majority of cases recover in few days or a week. However, pain and stiffness often cause hindrance in daily activity due to limited movement of neck. Here are some important home care tips besides use of painkillers and muscle relaxant medicines.
- Massage is useful for relaxing locked neck. It helps to relax the muscles and increase blood circulation to the injured muscles of neck. Apply coconut oil or mustard oil over the neck area. Gently massage the affected side with your fingers. If you are unable to massage due to pain and stiffness, ask someone to do.
- Warm compresses over the affected area increases blood circulation and reduce spasm of the neck muscles.
- Apply peppermint oil mixed in some carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil. Peppermint oil helps to soothe stiffness of muscles. It also has analgesic properties that will be effective in reducing pain.
- Physiotherapy and stretching exercise is also useful in reducing pain and spasm of neck muscles. Consequently it helps early recovery from the problem.
- Acupressure is another alternative medical therapy that helps to alleviate pain and spasm caused due to locked neck. It is a Chinese treatment that helps to alleviate pain. In this therapy pressure is applied on certain points to reduce pain.
- Try to sleep without pillow for few days. It helps to reduce strain on the affected neck muscles.