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Ever woken up unable to turn your head without pain, otherwise known as “crick in the neck”? Why does it happen?

Dr. Charles Kim, a musculoskeletal expert and assistant professor in the department of rehabilitative medicine and anesthesiology at NYU School of Medicine, says it can be caused by a variety of things. Most include a minor injury to the system of muscles, tendons, joints, and ligaments that hold your head on top of your body. A strain in the ligament or muscle is the usual culprit in young people, while arthritis is likely to cause pain in older patients.

What causes it?

Similar to “text neck”, when we bend our heads looking down at a screen or desk, the pressure causes the muscles in our neck to work extra hard to hold it up whenever it isn’t in a neutral position. The extra strain on the muscles and ligaments in our neck when our heads are twisted or bent out of a neutral position can cause this pain.

Even when we sleep, we roll from one side to another and onto our backs and stomachs. The head can tilt too far forwards, backward, or to the side.

How to treat it?

A crick in the neck usually subsides within a few days. In the meantime, you can do light stretches to ease the pain. A gentle massage or hot shower can help especially if the injury caused inflammation.

If the pain lasts longer than a few weeks, or if it is accompanied by numbness, tingling or arms falling asleep, call your doctor. This could signal a pinched nerve.

How to avoid it?

You may need to make some lifestyle changes if you get a crick in the neck frequently. At work, set up a desk that allows your spine to stay in a neutral position. Focus on your posture. A standing desk can help as well.

In bed, change your pillow. If you use too many pillows, your head will bend one way, while a very soft pillow might not provide enough support.

Finally, exercise is essential. Your body will thank you if you strengthen your back, neck, and core.

Source: Business Insider at http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-deal-with-a-crick-in-the-neck-2014-12

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