Neck stiffness affects an estimated ten percent of the population. Back injuries, arthritis, and muscle strains are often to blame.
If you can tell the difference between a stiff neck and other neck problems, you can get the right medical help and the best treatment.
So, how long does a stiff neck last, and is it a major problem? Here are the factors that affect the time it takes to restore your neck health.
How Long Does a Stiff Neck Last?
The duration of a stiff neck can vary depending on the severity of the condition, the individual’s age, and health. While there’s no specified time frame, seek medical attention if symptoms persist for days and are accompanied by other concerning signs.
Mild cases of muscle strain may be resolved within a few days to a week with rest and self-care measures. However, more severe cases may require a longer recovery period and professional treatment.
Older adults may experience slower healing processes. Additionally, individuals with underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems may have extended recovery periods.
Home Remedies for Stiff Neck Pain Relief
You can relieve muscular tension by using a heating pad or having a hot shower. Alternatively, you may get some relief from inflammation by using a cold pack wrapped in a towel.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin or over-the-counter muscle relaxants, can help with pain and tightness for a short time.
Neck muscles can also become less stiff with gentle stretching and exercise routines. But it’s important to be careful when doing these activities and stay away from moves that make the pain worse.
Further neck pain can be avoided by keeping good posture all day. Useful tools for improving neck alignment include an adjustable chair and a computer monitor placed at eye level.
Please keep in mind that these home treatments may help with light cases of neck stiffness, but you should see a doctor if the pain lasts or gets worse.
Medical Treatments for Neck Pain
Physical therapy and chiropractic care are two common treatment options for neck pain. Physical therapy involves exercises, stretches, and manual therapy techniques.
Chiropractic care focuses on spinal adjustments and manipulation. This local Panama City chiropractor is an example of a service that can align your neck and spine to improve joint function.
Injection therapies, such as corticosteroid injections, may be recommended for individuals with persistent neck pain that doesn’t respond to other treatments. These injections decrease inflammation and give long-lasting relief.
Prevention of a Stiff Neck
Spending extended periods hunched over your phone can strain the muscles and ligaments in your neck. Whenever possible, try to bring your phone up to eye level to avoid excessive bending. Taking frequent breaks and stretching your neck can also help relieve tension.
Poor sleep posture contributes to neck stiffness, too. Investing in a supportive pillow that keeps your neck aligned with your spine can prevent this problem.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach as well. It forces your neck into an unnatural position.
Make sure your workstation promotes good posture. Use a chair with proper lumbar support, position your desk so your forearms rest at a ninety-degree angle, and ensure your feet are flat on the floor. You can also use a footrest to decrease back strain.
Engaging in low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or yoga can help improve the strength of the neck muscles. Consult with a healthcare professional to develop a safe and effective exercise routine.
Smoking can impair the healing process, including that of neck injuries. By avoiding it, you improve your chances of a successful recovery.
Smoking also narrows blood vessels and lowers blood flow. Less blood flow to the neck can make it harder for oxygen and nutrients to get to the discs, which could make stiffness worse. You can help your tissues work better by giving up smoking until your neck heals.
When to Consult a Healthcare Professional
Some symptoms indicate a need for prompt medical attention, such as:
- Persistent fever
- Numbness in your arms or legs
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Headaches accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or changes in vision
These symptoms can be a sign of underlying conditions like meningitis and rheumatoid arthritis. Consult a doctor for your specific treatment plan.
Conditions Associated With Stiff Neck
Arthritis of the neck, also known as cervical spondylosis, is a degenerative condition that reduces mobility. The soft discs between the vertebrae become thinner and more fragile, causing your bones to rub together. You’ll feel a sharp pain in your neck and have trouble keeping your balance if this condition develops.
This ailment is more common in people over fifty.
When the discs between the vertebrae protrude or rupture, it can lead to irritation of nearby nerves and cause pain and stiffness. If the bulging disc is pressing on nerve roots, you may experience sharp pains that travel along your back. If this happens often, surgery to remove the damaged disc may be necessary.
Cervical Spine Disorders
Cervical radiculopathy (aka a pinched nerve) occurs when a nerve becomes compact, resulting in pain that branches into the shoulder, arm, and hand.
In addition to neck stiffness, individuals with cervical radiculopathy may experience numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected area. Treatment options for a pinched nerve include physical therapy, medication, and in some cases, surgery.
Cervical Spinal Stenosis
Spinal canal narrowing is the hallmark of cervical spinal stenosis. This narrowing can put pressure on the spinal cord, leading to neck immobility.
More Effective Stiff Neck Cures
The question shouldn’t be, How long does a stiff neck last; there are many different causes of a stiff neck, each with its own healing period. Instead, focus on finding out what caused your stiff neck and how to prevent it from happening.
For example, if you have a pinched nerve, wearing a brace may help keep the nerves from getting pressed again. Check out our health blog for more tips like these-and other ways to heal stiff necks and ease other ailments.
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