How Long Should A Stiff Neck Last?
Experiencing a stiff neck is frustrating, especially if it’s starting to affect your sleep. While you might feel alone, approximately 80% of people experience neck pain in their lifetime and a whopping 20-50% deal with it annually (Harvard Health, 2016).
But this doesn’t mean you should suffer in silence. It’s important to know when to see a doctor over neck pain and how long it usually lasts. This way, you can put your health first and ensure it’s not a severe condition.
If you’re wondering whether your neck pain is serious, keep reading. This guide will help you learn about neck pain and how to prevent it.
What Is a Stiff Neck?
A stiff neck or neck pain is a musculoskeletal condition with physical and emotional effects. It’s more common for those frequently in leaning or sitting positions (Genebra et al., 2017), but various causes can trigger it.
A stiff neck usually includes soreness or difficulty moving the head or neck. This results in a limited range of movement and a feeling of “stiffness.” This pain can sometimes extend to the head, shoulders, or arms.
A sore or stiff neck is usually more noticeable in the mornings after sleeping. However, it can occur at any time of the day, usually due to a sharp movement.
5 Common Causes of a Stiff Neck
The most common causes of a stiff neck include:
- Sleeping in an awkward position
- Sports injuries
- Turning the head/making a sharp movement
- Poor posture
Uncommon reasons someone might experience a stiff neck include osteoarthritis, cervical degenerative disc disease, or due to a herniated disc.
Some studies have shown that there are biological factors that affect neck pain. For example, age, sex, autoimmune diseases, and neuromusculoskeletal disorders can affect the prevalence of neck pain (Kazeminasab et al., 2022). Note that more research is needed in this area.
How Long Should a Stiff Neck Last?
Neck pain or stiffness caused by a strain or muscle tension usually disappears without treatment within a few days. This is called acute neck pain, usually caused by an awkward sleeping position or poor posture (IWQiG et al., 2019). If the neck pain is due to injury or a sharp movement, it may even last a few weeks. In some cases, it may even come back after an intensive workout or strain.
When neck pain lasts for months, it’s considered chronic neck pain. Psychological stress is common in chronic neck pain (IWQiG et al., 2019). However, you should be concerned if the pain doesn’t go away or becomes worse.
Sometimes, you can shorten the duration of neck pain through noninvasive interventions such as gentle exercise and therapies (Hurwitz et al., 2008). Using a supportive memory foam pillow is another way you can reduce neck pain.
Studies have concluded that using a specialised viscoelastic memory foam pillow is beneficial for chronic neck pain as it relieves symptoms and promotes more comfort (Soal et al., 2019).
When Is a Stiff Neck Serious?
Depending on the cause, most neck pain lasts for a few weeks. So, if your stiffness has been present for two weeks and isn’t going away, it’s time to see the doctor. You should also consult a medical professional if the pain worsens or limits your movement.
Other signs that your stiff neck could be a more serious condition include:
- You can’t relieve the pain with ordinary painkillers
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion and mood swings
- Coordination problems
- Unexplained weight loss
- Constant headaches
- You’re worried that the neck pain has a more serious cause
If you’ve noticed these other symptoms, it’s time to seek immediate medical attention.
The most serious condition associated with neck stiffness is meningitis. This bacterial infection causes the spinal cord and brain membranes to become inflamed. Other symptoms associated with meningitis include fever and altered mental status.
These three symptoms are present in 41% of cases, but 70% of patients will always have one of these signs (Runde, Anjum and Hafner, 2022). You should always consult immediate medical advice if you suspect meningitis.
4 Prevention Tips for Stiff Neck
The best way to avoid a stiff neck is through prevention techniques. When preventing neck pain, you want to focus on supporting your neck and spine while avoiding putting extra strain on them.
- Keeping your posture straight and avoiding looking down all day can stop your neck joints from becoming tired and overstretched (Cleveland Clinic, 2018). Whenever you can, sit up straight and maintain an aligned posture. Ergonomic desk chairs and standing desks can help if you work in an office setting.
- You can also add a supportive pillow into your sleep routine. Memory foam pillows have many benefits, including proper spinal alignment and neck pain relief, and researchers can conclude that pillows with a supportive cervical shape can be an effective treatment for neck pain (Persson L, Moritz U. 1998). Just ensure you know how to sleep on a memory foam pillow before you start.
- Adopting a healthy sleeping position is also essential to ensure you’re not doing any extra damage while catching some ZZZs. Back and side sleeping are the best positions, as these take the pressure off your neck. Combine a healthy sleeping position with the best pillow for neck pain for a comfortable solution.
- You can also use regular stretching or even yoga to improve your neck’s strength and reduce any persistent neck pain (Li et al., 2019). However, speak with a medical professional before adding new exercise into your routine when in doubt.
Neck stiffness is a challenging condition that many of us will experience at least once in our lives. However, with proper prevention and care, we can avoid prolonged pain and build management routines to lessen any aches or stiffness.
Remember to seek immediate medical assistance if you experience prolonged neck pain, pain that’s becoming stronger, or neck pain with other symptoms. Putting your health first in the face of uncertainty is always better.
Start supporting your neck and spine today with the Original Groove memory foam pillow.
- Cleveland Clinic. (2018). Easy Ways to Prevent a Stiff Neck. [online] Available at: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/easy-ways-to-prevent-a-stiff-neck/.
- Genebra, C.V.D.S., Maciel, N.M., Bento, T.P.F., Simeão, S.F.A.P. and Vitta, A.D. (2017). Prevalence and factors associated with neck pain: a population-based study. Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, 21(4), pp.274–280. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bjpt.2017.05.005.
- Harvard Health. (2016). Turn away from neck pain. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/turn-away-from-neck-pain#:~:text=In%20fact%2C%20approximately%2080%25%20of.
- IWQiG et al., N.C. for B., Pike, U.S.N.L. of M. 8600 R., MD, B. and Usa, 20894 (2019). Neck pain: Overview. [online] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK338120/.
- Hurwitz, E.L., Carragee, E.J., van der Velde, G., Carroll, L.J., Nordin, M., Guzman, J., Peloso, P.M., Holm, L.W., Côté, P., Hogg-Johnson, S., Cassidy, J.D. and Haldeman, S. (2008). Treatment of Neck Pain: Noninvasive Interventions. European Spine Journal, [online] 17(S1), pp.123–152. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00586-008-0631-z.
- Kazeminasab, S., Nejadghaderi, S.A., Amiri, P., Pourfathi, H., Araj-Khodaei, M., Sullman, M.J.M., Kolahi, A.-A. and Safiri, S. (2022). Neck pain: global epidemiology, trends and risk factors. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, [online] 23(1). doi:https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-021-04957-4.
- Li, Y., Li, S., Jiang, J. and Yuan, S. (2019). Effects of yoga on patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain. Medicine, 98(8), p.e14649. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/md.0000000000014649.
- Persson L, Moritz U. Neck support pillows: a comparative study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. 1998 May;21(4):237-240. PMID: 9608378. Contact Information: Liselott Persson, Lund University, email@example.com, +46462229555 Ulrich Moritz - Unable to locate
- Runde, T.J., Anjum, F. and Hafner, J.W. (2022). Bacterial Meningitis. [online] PubMed. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470351/#:~:text=Fever%2C%20neck%20stiffness%2C%20and%20altered.
Soal, L.J., Bester, C.M., Shaw, B.S. and Yelverton, C. (2019). Changes in chronic neck pain following the introduction of a visco-elastic polyurethane foam pillow and/or chiropractic treatment. Health SA Gesondheid, 24. doi:https://doi.org/10.4102/hsag.v24i0.1099.