Why Is My Neck So Stiff?

Do you wake up in the morning and start to slowly move your head from side to side to try to get some relief?

Are you constantly trying to ‘crack’ your neck to make it feel looser?

Do you find it difficult to look over your shoulder while you’re driving the car?

Why is your neck so stiff?

Neck stiffness is often accompanied by soreness/pain.

Your neck is a relatively complex area comprising of many joints and even more muscles.

All of these joints/muscles and their relationships will affect how much movement you have at your neck. Neck stiffness is often accompanied by soreness/pain. The 4 main culprits for neck stiffness are:

1. Pain – being in pain is a major reason for reduced movement in your neck; if a specific movement is painful, naturally you won’t let your neck go into this movement too much. However, when the pain subsides, often people keep these adopted movement patterns and continue to not move the way they did when they were in pain leading to long-term stiffness.

2. Muscle “Tightness” – as previously mentioned, the neck has many muscles; there are a few main offenders in the neck that often become “tight” or hypertonic (in spasm). Some reasons for this “tightness” include stress, lack of movement/prolonged positions, inadequate muscle endurance/strength.

3. Joint restriction – lack of movement, surgery, previous trauma & bony change scan all lead to joints becoming restricted.

4. A stiff mid-back – when your thoracic spine (mid-back) is stiff it will restrict the movement capacity of your neck; if you sit down most of the day the chances are you probably will have a stiff mid-back (unless you’re doing specific exercises to help loosen it out).

Often, there aren’t just one of these issues causing your neck stiffness; sometimes it can even be all 4. The good news is that all of them can be improved! When people come to our clinic, we assess their history, these 4 areas, as well as some more specific physical tests to try to figure out what is causing their neck stiffness.

We use various hands-on techniques to restore movement to the neck. You can see an example here. Hands-on treatment can be very important around the neck; however, making this new range of movement permanent is just as important through specific exercises. You can see some examples of these here & here.

Another important thing to mention is that sometimes people have the sensation of having a stiff neck, yet, they have as much movement as always. This case can often be due to muscle hypertonicity/spasm which gives the sensation of tightness & soreness and the feeling that you need to stretch. The cause of this muscle spasm is often because these muscles can’t tolerate the load being put on them (i.e. they’re weak), so stretching rarely has a significant effect. Strengthening is the key to issues like this. Strengthening the shoulder muscles is just as important; you can find a low-level shoulder strengthening exercise here.

If you have been having neck stiffness for an ongoing period, don’t let it continue. These kinds of things can get worse over time. If you would like to talk to one of our Physios, you can call us on (025) 35015 and we would be happy to help.
If you have any other queries or you are not quite sure where to begin, feel free to contact us online here, via email, or over the phone.

You can also avail of a free 15-minute physio consultation in the clinic with one of our physiotherapists. You can book online at https://www.apcphysio.ie/speak-with-physio/ Or Give us a call on 02535015 Fermoy Main Office or APC Cork, Club Vitae Clinic calls can be made to 085 7740559 today to talk through any questions and concerns you may have. Thanks for reading!


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