In the last few weeks, we have heard from several patients that they slept strangely and now cannot move their neck. What is this pain and can you fix it?

A stiff neck is a very uncomfortable and unexpected experience. A stiff neck can be caused by sleeping in an uncomfortable position, turning or tossing around during the night, or using a pillow which does not provide enough support. These actions can stretch and stress the muscles, ligaments, and joints beyond what they are used to, and cause them to tighten. Stomach sleeping can also contribute to neck tightening because the neck is kept in one position for a long time, specifically a rotational position. Physical Therapy can help you fix your neck. A Physical Therapy session includes education on the correct sleeping positions. We recommend the McKenzie cervical roll in a pillow as a way to support the natural curve of your neck. If this doesn’t work, there are other options. You could also be performing certain postural positions during the day which could be aggravating and contributing to neck pain. You can watch TV or work on the computer in a soft couch, or even in bed. In a physical therapy session, you will learn how to sit with a neutral back and how to set up your workstation so that it puts less strain on the muscles and joints in your neck. One of these examples would be to make sure that the computer screen is at your eye level.

What gentle stretches can you do during the day?

Upper Trap Stretch – Holding Chair and Head

As you sit in a chair, place one hand on the seat and the other hand on your forehead to help you bend your head as shown. Bend your head to the opposite side of the arm that is holding the seat. You should feel a stretch on the side of your head. Hold stretch for 30 second and repeat 3 times.

Bilateral External Rotation: Pizza Carry

Palms facing up, bend both elbows 90 degrees with your back against the wall. Slowly bring your hands away from yourself, while keeping your elbows in contact. While doing this, squeeze your shoulder blades. Avoid “hiking” your shoulders. Repeat 10 times three times daily. Return to your starting position.

Cervical Retraction

Slowly move your head backwards so that your ears are aligned with your shoulders, as if you were moving away from a licking dog. Repeat this 10 times. This can be done up to six times per day, depending on the person.

What can you do when you awaken?

Sometimes applying ice or heat, whichever provides greater relief, to the neck can be helpful. Within the first 30 days, schedule an appointment with a therapist who does not require a prescription.

How can Prime Orthopedic Rehabilitation help with Physical Therapy?

Sometimes there can be an underlying neck-joint disorder where a joint does not move as well as it should. This is called facet joint dysfunction, where the joint does not allow the neck to flexes, extends, rotates or side bends correctly. Prime Orthopedic Rehabilitation believes in manual therapy, re-education and re-education for the neck muscles and joints. We will assess the mobility of each facets joint and correct the joint restrictions at every level in order to restore the available motion. We will also loosen up the tight muscles surrounding the joints and re-educate the muscles to support your neck.

If your stiff neck is not improving after waking up, call Prime Orthopedic Rehabilitation at 201-503-7172

Prime Orthopedic Rehabilitation is owned by Jessica Lowy, DPT and Michal Porath MPT. They are both Mckenzie A – D, Schroth Therapists. In their clinic, they treat necks and spines as well as general orthopedic and post-surgical patients. Call (201) 503-7172 to schedule an appointment.