When it comes to having a stiff neck, there are certainly different levels of intensity. Generally the discomfort caused by this condition can range anywhere from simply inconvenient and annoying all the way to sharp, debilitating pain. Stiff necks almost always cause soreness and a reduction in range of neck motion, thereby affecting a person’s activity level. In many situations involving a stiff neck, everyday tasks such as driving can become very dangerous as turning to one side becomes so incredibly painful that the movement must be stopped before completed. An individual suffering with a stiff neck may also experience a headache, shoulder pain, neck pain, or arm pain.
Common Causes of Stiff Neck
Stiff necks are most commonly caused by muscle strain or tissue sprain. When trying to understand stiff necks, it is important to be mindful of the levator scapulae muscle. The levator scapulae muscle connects the neck’s cervical spine with the shoulder. The third (C3) and fourth (C4) cervical nerves control this muscle. Unfortunately, the levator scapulae muscle is very susceptible to injury and is often times strained simply while an individual engages in everyday activities. For example, cervical stress due to sleeping in awkward positions can strain the levator scapulae muscle, as can maintaining poor posture. Specifically, slouching while watching TV, viewing a computer screen, sending text messages while looking downward, or cradling a phone for a long period of time between your neck and shoulder can all put undue stress on this muscle. Additionally, sports injuries such as falls or impacts that result in suddenly pushing the head to the side can also be a common cause that results in a stiff neck. Lastly, emotional and psychological distress or trauma can bring on a stiff neck, as excessive levels of stress and anxiety can lead to tension in the neck.
Less Common Causes of Stiff Neck
In less common situations, having a stiff neck can be due to an underlying disorder of the cervical spine. One cervical spine disorder that can cause neck muscles to become tight is Cervical Degenerative Disk Disease. This disease can result in neck pain and stiffness because as disks lose hydration and height over time, pressure can significantly increase on nearby tissue, nerves, and joints. Another cervical spine condition that can bring on a stiff neck is Cervical Herniated Disk. For those with this disease, a stiff neck develops as the protective outer portion of a disk in the cervical spine deteriorates and the inner jelly like substance leaks out, which compresses and inflames nearby tissues. Lastly, Cervical Osteoarthritis (Cervical Spondylosis), which is a condition involving changes to the bones, discs, and joints of the cervical spine, can also be the underlying cause of a stiff neck.
Regardless of your spine condition or cause of pain, our highly-trained Spine Specialists at Stridewell Same-Day Spine Clinic in Scottsdale will be your best first step towards finding both valuable answers & relief! Stridewell Tipsread article