Do you experience frequent stiff necks that are becoming more painful and long-lasting?
What causes a stiff neck? Did stomach sleeping cause your painful stiff neck? What can you do to get effective relief?
Myths and facts about painful stiff necks
Myth #1. A stiff neck is a neck problem – While the pain may be experienced in your neck, the cause often involves the pelvis which is half the motion in your body. To move your neck, your mid and lower back and pelvis have to allow for that movement. Problems in lower back function often cause stiff necks when sitting, standing, sleeping, or moving. Your body can develop imbalances from the feet up eventually resulting in a loss of motion in the neck you may not be aware of. A proper evaluation of the neck must include evaluation of the feet, how you walk and how you move. Evaluating the neck while ignoring the rest of the body often leads to ineffective care over the long term. It can also lead to unnecessary tests such as MRI scans that may show a history of malfunction, resulting in joint and disc defects over time. Chronic neck stiffness is a full-body problem and will affect your lower back, shoulders hands, arms, and even your knees and feet.
Myth #2 My neck is stiff because I slept wrong – The most common reason sleeping position can cause neck stiffness and pain is either stomach sleeping side sleeping with too few or too many pillows. Side sleepers must have their neck supported so it does not lean to the side when sleeping which can cause pain upon waking. Stomach sleeping twists the neck and hyperextends it. If there are problems in the lower back and mid-back regions, stomach sleeping can make a chronically stiff neck worse resulting in pain and disability and also resulting in headaches.
Myth #3 It is just my normal stiffness – While it is true that some people are more flexible than others, it is also true that there is no normal. There is a normal for you which is what you are used to. If you are used to being stiff and tight, you likely consider this normal since you see yourself that way from years of experience in your own body.
Myth #4 My neck is stiff from a draft – While cold or cool temperatures may stiffen up the neck a little, they do not cause a stiff or painful neck. As discussed in the prior sections, the stiffness in the neck is caused by how your body moves from the floor up. It is rarely ever just a neck problem.
Myth #5 I hold my stress in my neck – While it is true that stress can cause neck stiffness to worsen due to the stress hormones affect on muscles and the blood vessels, stress may have aggravated an already existing neck problem you may have been living with for a while.
Who should you see first for a stiff neck?
Considering there are many causes of stiff neck and painful neck, to properly understand why you hurt, a practitioner who looks at everything instead of just your neck can make the difference between ineffective care and relief.
Chiropractors are uniquely trained in the musculoskeletal system to holistically evaluate and treat those conditions. Since a stiff neck can be a lower back, leg, foot, shoulder, or another type of problem resulting in the inability to turn your neck, it is essential that a thorough evaluation of you, and not just your neck is essential.
What to expect on your first chiropractic visit
Initially, a comprehensive history of your problems is done. Next, an examination of how you move, your functional abilities, muscles, and spinal joints are performed. This allows us to fully understand why you hurt and personalize a solution to your unique needs. X-rays may be taken if necessary. Chiropractors are physicians who specialize in the musculoskeletal system. They are by design primary care for the musculoskeletal system, a role that is essential in today’s healthcare system
Treatment is performed on the same visit as long as there are no contraindications. If the problem is not within the realm of chiropractic care, you will be referred to someone who can help.
Treatment includes methods such as spinal and extremity manipulation, myofascial release to improve mobility of the fascia and muscles, and exercises. Foot orthotics are recommended if the problem resulted from body structure resulting from asymmetrical feet and pelvic mechanics.
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