When I went in to see my doctor and complained of tightness around my neck and shoulders, she told me I had “neck spasms.”
Neck spasms! Who knew that your neck could spasm?
If you, too, feel tight muscles and pain around your neck and shoulders, you could have neck spasms too.
What are neck spasms? The muscles in your neck can involuntarily contract if you overuse them, have poor posture, or are under a lot of stress (ie dental school). Sometimes neck spasm can give you a headache, and can cause pain elsewhere if they occur in “trigger points.”
How do you treat neck spasms?
If your neck spasms started recently, you can ice your neck 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a day.
If your neck spasms are a recurring issue, you can soothe the pain by putting moist towels on your neck for 20 minutes, or take hot showers.
You can directly massage your with a lacrosse ball
Or you can try some of the following stretches:
Image from Summit Medical Group
Neck rotation with flexion
Put your hands behind your head and turn your head to the right. The weight of your arms will pull your chin to the right side of your chest. Relax and hold for fifteen counts. Do this three times, and repeat on the other side
Put your fingertips on your chin and push your head back as though you were making a double chin. Keep your gaze straight ahead and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
Upper trapezius stretch
Sit in an upright position, lower your left shoulder, and tilt your head to the right. You can use your right hand to gently pull your head towards your shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds and come back to your upright position. Repeat on the other side, 3 times on each side.
Neck rotation stretch
Rotate your neck by looking over your right shoulder. You can use your right palm to push the left side of your chin towards your right shoulder. Hold for 10. Do this 3 times and repeat on the other side.
You can sit or stand with your arms by your sides, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5. Do 3 sets of 10.
While sitting in a sturdy chair, put your hands behind your head. Arch back and look up to the ceiling. Repeat 10 times.
How do you prevent neck spasms? If you catch neck spasm symptoms early, you can prevent them from getting worse. Try some stretches throughout the day. Take frequent breaks from the computer and from dental work. If you start feeling any neck pain, stop whatever you are doing and try some more of the stretches. Don’t stay in the same position all day, and maintain good posture!
Reference: The Sports Medicine Patient Advisor, 3rd edition, by Dr. Pierre Rouzier, M.D.