A neck spasm is associated with many painful conditions of the neck and upper back. There are many potential causes including:
- emotional ones such anxiety, stress
- muscular ones such as muscle strain and tension,
- injuries such as whiplash
- Medical conditions such as Spasmodic torticollis.
- Less common causes, including tetanus and viral infections.
Neck spasm can be a very painful symptom of many neck injuries and conditions, and Physiotherapy is effective treatment in most common cases. Diagnosis is the key - and once the cause of the spasm is removed the symptoms will usually disappear within 24-72 hours. If it does not resolve fully in this time then seek medical advice immediately.
What is a Neck spasm?
A spasm is an involuntary contracture of a muscle. The muscle shortens in length and remains in a contracted position for the duration of the spasm. Spasms are generally acute and only last a few days if they are managed correctly
Your neck spasm, while it can be painful, usually occurs to protect you from injuring your neck further while some part of your neck anatomy - a damaged joint, muscle, ligament or disc is resolving itself. If it continues beyond 24 hours it usually means that the damaged part needs some assistance in its recovery.
Neck Spasm Treatment
Treatment may be as simple as some exercises and applying heat treatment (a hot water bottle!) to your neck! However, you may have to attend a Doctor or Physiotherapist who will help your neck to resolve itself from its pain.
Your neck may require joint mobilisation, re-alignment techniques and/or neck pain exercises or other intervention as appropriate. The type of problem is will dictate the treatment you require. Your Doctor, Medical Practitioner, or Chartered Physiotherapist will help you in the diagnosis and required treatment.
If manual treatment does not resolve the spasm in your neck, or ease you fully from your pain - you may require further investigation such as an X-ray or an MRI scan to help diagnose and resolve your neck spasm fully. Again, talk to your doctor or chartered physio about this.
Sometimes babies are born with a spasm in their necks. If this happens it can be very painful for your baby. Your baby’s head will be held slightly to one side and your baby may respond to the pain by crying when their neck is moved in a certain direction. Investigations are required to understand the cause of this type of spasm, commonly called a torticollis. Once the diagnosis is made, manual treatment is usually successful. Manual therapy and some craniosacral therapy techniques are my treatment of choice in this situation. Your physiotherapist will also teach you some exercises to help your baby’s neck resolve at home.
While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.
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