Neck muscle spasms are the involuntary contractions of neck muscles that can become tight, hard and painful. According to the University of Michigan Health System in the article "Neck Spasms" on Med.umich.edu, "Neck spasms may occur from an injury, overuse, poor posture, or stress." The best way to stop neck muscle spasms is through a combination of stretching, massage, medication, ice and heat.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Ice pack or hand towel
- Heating pad
- Ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve)
When a neck spasm occurs, perform these exercises to alleviate the muscle tightness: Turn your head to the right (chin over top of shoulder), put both hands behind your head and slowly pull your head down toward the right side of your chest. Hold that position for 15 seconds, relax, then repeat two more times. Perform the exact same movement (same duration and repetitions) while turning your head to the left.
Next, turn your head to the right (chin over top of shoulder), put your left palm on your chin and push your chin slightly down toward your right shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds. Do 3 repetitions. Now, turn your head to the left so that your chin is over the top of your shoulder. Put your right palm on your chin and push it slightly down toward your left shoulder. Hold that movement for 10 seconds and do 3 repetitions.
Finally, place your thumb and forefinger on your chin. Slowly move your head backward and stretch your neck. Hold that position for 5 seconds, then relax. Do 5 repetitions.
Locate the tight muscles in your neck and massage them with your finger for 2-5 minutes. Take 2 ibuprofen or naproxen and repeat every 4-6 hours as needed.
Put ice in an ice pack or inside a towel, strap or tie it to your neck so that the ice is compressed directly against your muscle spasm. Keep the ice in place for 15-20 minutes. Repeat every 3-4 hours as needed. After 48 hours, use a heating pad several times per day.
Tips and warnings
- It is possible that your neck muscle spasm will occur while you are at work or in public. Just excuse yourself, head to the rest room and perform some of the aforementioned exercises. Stretching is a way to get immediate relief from a neck muscle spasm. If you cannot remember specific exercises, just bend your head from side to side, then forward and back. Shrugging your shoulders can also relieve tension in your neck. Moreover, massaging with an ice cube for a few minutes may relieve your neck spasm. If you suffer from frequent neck spasms, try eating more bananas as potassium can prevent cramps and spasms. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant. Take magnesium on a daily basis to prevent neck spasms. (See refs. 1-3 below for more details on relieving neck spasms with exercise, massage and nutrition.)
- Never jerk your neck when stretching it. This can interrupt the blood supply in the neck muscle and cause further injury. Always perform stretching exercises very slowly.
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