Stretch Carefully Following a Spasm
A quick or forceful stretch to a muscle in spasm can actually cause it to become more severe, increasing pain and tension in the neck. Instead, perform a slow, controlled stretch to the affected areas of the neck following a spasm. If the muscle is still twitching, applying gentle, steady pressure over the body of the muscle will encourage relaxation. If you cannot apply pressure to your own neck, ask someone to do it for you.
Either Heat or Ice May Be Used in Treatment
Some muscle spasms are caused by swelling of the tissues in the surrounding area. In this case, applying ice to the neck and taking an anti-inflammatory can help. Reducing the swelling should allow the muscle to relax, which will in turn reduce pain. However, chronic neck spasms that are the result of muscle overuse may benefit from heat. Moist heat packs, available in most pharmacies, or relaxing in a hot bath or shower should help to reduce the muscle spasm. In some cases, alternating the use of heat and ice can reduce spasms. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for recommendations.
Frequent Occurrences May Be Caused By Stress
A bad night's sleep, poor posture or uncomfortable work chairs can put strain and stress on the neck muscles, causing pain and spasms. If you wake up in pain, or if sitting for hours makes your pain worse, you may want to consider changing your furniture. Do you lean over your desk all day at work? Prolonged rounding of the shoulders and neck puts pressure on the large support muscles of the upper back, which can lead to painful spasms. If your neck spasms are not the result of poor positioning, stress itself may be to blame. Stress is a major culprit of tension in the muscles of the neck and upper back, an abundance of which can lead to spasms.
Chronic Neck Pain and Spasms Have a Name
Torticollis is the fancy term for a crick in the neck. It is a chronic condition that causes neck spasms so severe, they may even cause the head to turn. Torticollis attacks can be extremely painful and may take up to a few weeks to resolve. It is treated like an ordinary spasm: with heat, ice, anti-inflammatories and stretching.
You May Need Therapy or a Shot
Chronic neck pain and spasms may require professional intervention. Physical therapists are skilled at using treatment modalities such as heat, ice, ultrasound and electrical stimulation to decrease pain resulting from spasms. They can also educate you on the best approach to treat your condition at home if painful spasms return. If therapy and home treatments can't keep painful neck spasms at bay, your doctor may inject a steroid, such as cortisone, to manage your condition.