Usually, there is no cure for a cricked neck and the pain will go away on its own. The problem is that the pain from a crick in the neck can be so painful that it will dramatically lower your quality of life – say goodbye to sleep with pain this bad – and will recur if not dealt with correctly.
So how do you deal with it?
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to improve neck pain from cricks, as well as some basic changes that you can make to limit their frequency.
Sure, you could go and see a specialist but they are just going to instruct you to try home remedies before suggesting surgery. That said, do seek medical advice if the cricks occur frequently or if it gets more painful over several days.
Cricked Neck Definition
A ‘crick’ in your neck is a very vague term that can either refer to a stiff neck, neck pain, a feeling of something being trapped in your neck, or indeed any other sort of discomfort in the upper spine.
While this term is unclear, there are some common causes for a crick in the neck no matter what the sensation is.
Firstly, cervical spinal stenosis occurs where there is not enough room for the spinal cord and branching nerve roots in the spinal canal. Cervical stenosis is most often a result of bone spurs from osteoarthritis of the spine.
A cervical herniated disc is another frequently reported cause of pain associated with neck ‘cricks.’ A herniated disc is the term given to a spinal inner disc that has burst through the tough outer layer of the cervical disc wall.
This usually means that a nerve root is pressed which causes pain. This pain can be localized to the neck but quite often will shoot down the arms or around the shoulders and upper back.
Finally, the muscle spasm. This is the name given to any muscle that contracts involuntarily and is primarily caused by overuse and injury.
The muscles around the neck are prone to injury as the weight of the head puts them under a lot of strain which is part of the reason why having good posture is so important – poor alignment will increase the force placed on the muscles multiple times over.
Letting an injured or painful muscle rest and recover is the best way to heal. This does not mean just lying in bed or on the sofa all day for ‘recovery’ – however tempting it sounds – as this will lead to deconditioning and eventually make things worse.
Stay lightly active while letting the muscle heal is the best way to go about things so try taking a gentle walk around the block every now and again.
Cooling the area with an ice pack or gently warming it up with some heat are great home remedies for a crick in the neck. Ice will get rid of some inflammation while heat will loosen the muscle to get things moving again.
Try using one temperature therapy then wait a while and use the other to see which will work best for you.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are used to get rid of some of the pain by reducing the swelling of the injured muscle.
These are beneficial for improving your quality of life while your neck crick is in full effect and hopefully will let you get some relief.
While these are over-the-counter, you do need to keep in mind that they are medications that can interact with other drugs if used inappropriately.
Making some small adjustments to your daily life may have a positive effect on the frequency and severity of your neck cricks.
Maintain good posture as much as possible by keeping your shoulders relaxed and your abdomen held, with your head straightforward and weight evenly distributed on both sides of your body.
Avoid slouching in a chair as this puts stress on the delicate tissues of the neck that will eventually cause movement to alleviate this pressure.
You also need to avoid hunching forward and poking out the chin. These postures will put a lot of strain on the neck which causes muscles to move in an abnormal way.
Sleeping positions may also need to be changed – avoid sleeping on your front as this forces the spine into weird shapes. Instead, sleep on your back or side with a sufficiently supportive pillow.
If your pain does not get better after several days of trying home remedies you may need to contact a medical professional.
You may need fusion surgery to fix damaged discs or, in less extreme cases, a course of corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation for weeks at a time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the quickest way to get rid of a crick in your neck?
Applying heat to the part of your neck that is painful or stiff is the best way to loosen up the area which will get rid of the pain.
Apply a heated pad for between 8 and 10 minutes to get your spinal nerves relaxed, a full range of motion, and freely moving muscles.
How long does a crick in the neck last?
Neck cricks are primarily caused by lifestyle choices – hours sitting at a computer and not enough exercise – so they will take a lot longer to heal if these factors are not changed.
On the whole, cricks will usually heal within a few days but muscle soreness may take a bit longer to go away completely.
You should go to see a doctor if the pain gets worse over a few days or if the pain causes any other symptoms.
Can you massage a crick out of your neck?
Gently rubbing the affected area of your neck can help alleviate the pain but be sure to massage after you have applied heat – rubbing while the muscles are cold may cause more soreness.
Make circles with your fingers but be sure to keep the pressure light. Finish with some anti-inflammatory medications for the best results.
How do I sleep with a crick in my neck?
You need to avoid sleeping on your stomach as this puts a lot more pressure on the spine than sleeping on your side or, even better, sleeping on your back.
You also need to avoid sleeping with a pillow that is too firm or too deep as your neck will be excessively flexed overnight and exacerbate stiffness.
For the best night’s sleep with a cricked neck, use a ‘butterfly pillow.’ Shake the pillow so the stuffing is well distributed, then smack the center of the pillow in a ‘karate chop’ style.
Tie a soft ribbon around the indentation left by the chop tightly and sleep with your neck over the tied center and the two halves on either side of your head.
Like this article? Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for more content like this.