It happens to everyone; the experience of waking up with neck pain is remarkably debilitating. Medicically known as adult torticollis, this condition occurs more frequently than you think and is significantly annoying. You go to bed feeling fine, and you wake up unable to turn your head without pain. There are some common things that cause this condition, and some simple things you can do to ease your suffering.
How does Neck Pain Happen?
Overnight you have little control over the circumstances in which you sleep. You may unintentionally place your head in an abnormal position. The temperature may drop and cause neck muscles to spasm. Unusual activities the day before may have put a strain on your neck. Now, when you relax, the muscles seize up. Regardless of the exact source, you wake up with muscles that have tightened to the point of immobility.
When the muscles lock up, they cause the facet joints, small joints that lie along the outside of the vertebrae to jam against one another. The small muscles that control movement along these joints get tighter and the cycle repeats itself. It becomes a vicious circle until you get the neck muscles to relax.
Treatment Options for Pains in the Neck
If you catch the problem right at the beginning, you will have a better chance of a quick solution. Ice and anti-inflammatory medications will help combat the pain and inflammation. For truly severe cases, you may need an injection to help release the muscular contracture, but usually this is unnecessary. Most cases will resolve them within a few days.
If the spasm remains active for more than a week, you may want to consider physical therapy, massage, and chiropractics.
Physical Therapy for a Neck Injury
A physical therapist is trained in maintaining proper range of motion and function in your muscles and joints. With a variety of passive and isometric exercises, a PT can help your neck muscles "reset" and resume full motion. Even after this is achieved, it can take a while for the injured muscles to be fully healed. So keep up with your therapy if you opt for this course of action.
Massage Therapy to Work out Kinks in the Neck
A massage therapist is taught how to help muscles relax. One that specializes in Neuromuscular therapy also knows how to release spasms that occur deep within the muscles. With the spasm resolved, other treatments will progress more quickly. If torticollis is a chronic problem, a massage therapist can help you maintain a more relaxed muscular state, reducing your rate of incidence.
Chiropractors work predominately with the joints. When a person is experiencing torticollis, the neck is most unwilling to allow manipulation of the facet joints. A good chiropractor will spend a lot of time doing many of the same soft tissue manipulations that physical therapists and massage therapists do before attempting an adjustment.
A normal course of chiropractic treatment for torticollis involves 3-4 sessions. Overtime, the joints and muscles will return to place and relax.
Barring an unofficial trigger, almost all cases of torticollis are resolved successfully in a matter of a couple of weeks, at the most. While very painful and generally annoying, torticollis or neck pain is not a serious situation.