• Does medical science understand benign stiff necks?

    Here’s what I’ve noticed. If I wake up in the morning with a stiff back, maybe having slept in a less than relaxed position, a bit of movement, a hot shower, and sometimes some ibuprofen goes a long way. I feel a lot better quickly.

    But, if it’s my neck that’s stiff, nothing works. I blast it with heat. I stretch it every which way. I massage it. I pop some ibuprofen. It never seems to get better at the same rate as my back does. Often it takes a full day to begin to improve. Sometimes I can still feel a bit of stiffness into the second day.

    What gives? What makes the neck muscles different from the back muscles in this regard? Is it just me? What say you, hive mind?

    (No, I’m not talking about meningitis or a herniated disk here. I’m just talking run of the mill awkward sleeping. I should also emphasize, since I started standing at my computer at work, I rarely experience muscle tension of any kind.)


    • Try Pilates for both problems.

    • (Caveat: this is pure speculation)

      Look at the difference in normal range of motion (ROM) for the cervical and lumbar spine. (And the lack of ROM for the thoracic spine.) Given how much harder it is to keep the head in ‘neutral’ and ow much more we ask of the cervical musculature, it seems obvious that the neck would complain more.

      Peter Elias, MD

    • I haven’t had that problem for many years but for me, whatever it is that is added to the acetaminophen in OTC Percogesic has always handled the stiff neck issue. My daughter finds it works better for her occasional mild back spasms, too.

    • I’ve had a stiff neck a lot less often since getting a special neck pillow. I like the cheap Ikea one better than some of the more expensive neck support pillows. It feels awkward at first, but after a week or two, I got used to it and now find regular pillows not as comfortable.

    • Well a seemingly benign stiff neck was the only symptom I had of Lymes disease for a day or two before the whole neck/back complex painfully seized up it seems worth thinking about (no bullseye which is apparently not so atypical). Had I not *also* recently found a tick I probably would’ve put off doing anything about it for a couple days more thinking it was just an unprecedented outlier of the normal bad-sleep variety… may have lead to chronic Lymes infection. Do other potentially bad diseases show up as one- or two-day neck pain that’s easily shrugged off?

    • I am not sure how far back in time you will get or look at comments. I work on a computer and read a lot so my neck and lower back (due to extra weight) bother me fairly often. I negotiate with my Chiropractor a flat monthly fee for me to go once a week whether I feel the need or not and problem is solved. Key is to go immediately when you wake up with that stiff neck on a particular day so in my case I may go each week on a different day from the previous week. It also keeps me from using over the counter pain medication very often.

    • I think Peter has it right, with a touch of fibromyalgia and a repetitive motion injury. That is, tending a Blog Site management crisis by a furrowed brow and nodding your head as if to say: no-no-no ad infinitum!

    • From another former desk-chair user, sober now for 2 years. I had ongoing back and shoulder pain (of the ordinary kind) for years due to being a desk jockey. When a minor injury made me try a standing desk to speed recovery, much of that went away.

    • Medical science won’t understand minor musculoskeletal problems for quite some time. They’re too subjective. Far too reliant on self-reports of symptoms that can be vague. Or I suppose we could do a trial with MRI machines, but that would be much more expensive than the problem is worth.

      With that said, it’s going to be entirely eminence-based care for you. Pilates, standing chair, exercise ball chair, yoga, massage therapy, chiropractic care, etc. I use chiropractic care, for better or worse.