Total Health

Common causes of neck spasms and what you can do about them

September 15th, 2022 by
Category: Chiropractic Care Dr. Brooke Evans Neck pain

woman holding neck in pain

Muscle spasms are involuntary sensations that can occur anywhere in the body, stimulating a pulling, grabbing, or tightening feeling in the muscles of the body. One of the most common areas for muscle spasms to occur in the body is the neck region. A neck spasm may occur suddenly or gradually build in intensity. The intensity of a neck spasm can range from person to person. They can present as a small twitching-like movement or a severe pulling contraction, where your head can be stressed in another direction. If you experience a neck spasm, you will feel a sharp pain deep into the muscle tissue. The muscle may begin to feel firm and tight and may cause restriction in your head movement or painful head movement. Neck spasms typically can resolve within minutes, hours, or a few days, however, it is possible for them to last longer and become a chronic presentation. In most cases, neck spasms can be treated effectively and steps can be taken to try to reduce the recurrence.

The most common causes of neck spasms include:

Less common but more serious causes of neck spasms include:

  • Whiplash, other trauma, or falls
  • Cervical spondylosis. A type of arthritis that can affect the spine
  • Ankylosing spondylitis. A type of arthritis that can cause the vertebrae in the spine to fuse together
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Herniated disc
  • Temporomandibular joint disorders
  • Spasmodic torticollis/cervical dystonia
  • Meningitis. A very serious infection that causes swelling in the brain and spinal cord. Requires immediate medical attention.

What can you do about neck spasms?

A good way to help begin to ease the sharp pressure of neck spasms is with stretching exercises. Basic neck stretches can help to stimulate more movement and release built-up tension. Here are a few that you can start off with:

Complete ALL 2 times per day

Upper trapezius mobilisation/stretch

upper trapezius stretch infographic

  1. Place your left hand under your buttock and your right hand on top of your head
  2. Gently let your right hand fall towards the floor while bringing your head towards the right side
  3. Once you begin to feel the stretch, hold it for 30 seconds
  4. Repeat on the left side, holding for 30 seconds
  5. Complete the stretch on both sides 3 times

Levator scapulae mobilisation/stretch

levator scap stretch infographic

  1. Place your left hand under your buttock and your right hand on top of your head
  2. Gently guide your head with your right hand bringing your nose towards your armpit
  3. Once you begin to feel the stretch, hold it for 30 seconds
  4. Repeat on the left side, holding for 30 seconds
  5. Complete the stretch on both sides 3 times

Sub-occipital mobilisation/stretch

  1. Sit up straight on a chair with both feet flat on the ground
  2. Gently bring your chin directly down towards your chest until you feel a nice stretch
  3. Place both your hands on the back of your head to create more of a stretch
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times

In acute cases, you may also find relief from using ice or heat on the affected area and massage may help to relieve muscle tension and any spasms occurring. In addition, light exercise or movement is recommended rather than being still and inactive.

Preventing neck spasms

To help further prevent neck spasms from being a recurring problem it is important to implement certain lifestyle changes or new routines and practices into your life:

  • Postural correction
  • Ergonomic workspace
  • Regular movement or exercise
  • Implement stretching into your routine
  • Supportive pillows
  • Good sleeping routine
  • Meditation or relaxation techniques
  • Regular Chiropractic adjustments

Neck spasms and Chiropractic care

Chiropractic care aims to get the body and its nervous system functioning at its very best. Chiropractic care is suitable for all walks of life and may be a great option for anyone who is currently experiencing neck stiffness, loss of movement or poor posture. Chiropractic care may help with not only acute pain relief of neck spasms but also chronic neck issues, postural correction, and most importantly preventative care! Chiropractic care may help with assisting the body and giving the body an opportunity to move, feel and function better overall. Chiropractic care can consist of:

  • Manual adjustments
  • Low force adjustments/techniques
  • Soft tissue techniques
  • Ergonomic and lifestyle modifications/advice
  • Rehabilitation recommendations

When to seek immediate medical care?

It is important to recognise when to seek immediate medical care after experiencing neck spasms and a stiff, restricted neck. If you develop any of these symptoms that correlate to Meningitis, please seek further medical attention urgently –

  • High temperature/fever over 37.5°
  • Body chills
  • Headaches
  • Purple rash that can look similar to a bruise
  • Sensitivity to light

If you or anyone else you know are experiencing trouble with neck spasms or would like to seek preventative measures, consider consulting with one of our Chiropractors or another trusted health professional. At Total Health Chiropractic, we will be able to work with you to cultivate a personalised and comprehensive step-by-step plan to allow your body to move, feel and function its very best.


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