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Stiff Neck in the Morning: What to do?

Most stiff necks involve the facet joints in the cervical spine and the surrounding soft tissue. The small muscles in the neck are responsible for rotating each spinal segment. Some segmental muscles have additional responsibilities, pull on the capsules of the facet joints so they don’t get pinched during rotation. Similar to your own muscle control when your finger gets a door shut on it. Your reaction time was slowed and your finger is now “throbbing”. Similar to a “stiff neck” , the facet joint capsule was pinched as you rotated your head due to slow muscle reaction of your cervical rotators. Most people put the hot shower on their neck and try to loosen the neck up and off they go on their day. These people get short term relief and more limitations in motion in the long run. Putting heat on it too early may increase swelling and limit range of motion (ROM) One quick check to make sure you are dealing with the facet joint problem. Turn your head to the side of pain. Place your hand on same side cheek and turn head into your hand (which is resisting movement), if pain is diminished with resistance, most likely we are dealing with a facet problem. Continue this technique several times and you should have 50% more motion. Initial care should be ice and repeat the isometric contraction while rotating head toward painful side. (2 x per session and 3 times per day) Continue only if the pain is reduced. If symptoms persist, see an M.D. The longer you wait to receive proper medical attention the longer your facet joints will be inflammed. Inflammation in a joint can quickly deteriorate a normal healthy joint and create degenerative changes which can lead to an arthritic condition.

Andrew Clary MPT ATC
F.R.O.G.S. Physical Therapy
Functional Rehabilitation for Orthopedic, Golf and Spine
16621 N. 91st Street, Suite 101
Scottsdale, AZ. 85260
Office: 480-585-7300