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Have You Woken Up with a Crick in the Neck? They hurt. So here’s what you can do about it!

The other day I woke up and turned my head right to grab my iPhone on my night stand. OUCH! I had a crick in my neck! It had been so long since I had had a crick that I was compelled to do some homework on the Internet and discover what causes a crick and what I can do to get rid of the tolerable, but obnoxious pain!

I found a good article at “It’s an age-old question that has probably plagued mankind since its existence,” says Dr. Charles Kim, a musculoskeletal expert and assistant professor in the departments of rehabilitative medicine and anesthesiology at NYU School of Medicine who specializes in integrative pain management, physiatry (a physician who specializes in physical medicine), sports medicine, and medical acupuncture.”

What Causes a Crick?

The article says that cricks can be caused by many things, but most involve a minor injury to the system of muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons that hold your head on top of your body. A human head weighs 10 to 12 pounds! A muscle or ligament strain is the usual culprit that causes cricks in younger people, while arthritis is more likely to be a factor for older patients.

Whenever you twist or bend our head out of a natural position, we put extra strain on the muscles and ligaments in our neck. Positions that strain our necks mostly happened during the most normal activities that take up a long time in our day and night: working and sleeping.

At work we frequently spend much of the day with our heads bent forward, looking down at a computer screen or material on a desk. This is the exact same effect that we’ve seen recently described as “text neck.” Since our heads weigh so much, the muscles in our neck have to work extra hard to hold it up whenever it isn’t in a neutral position.

Dr. Kim explains that though it’s frequently described as a new phenomenon, “text neck” is just another name for an overuse injury, where one part of our body is strained beyond its capacity. The muscles in our neck can be compared to a rope-and-pulley system, he says, and if we lean forward all day we may put too much strain on one part of that system.

What Else Causes Cricks?

Stress can also be a contributing factor, either at work or at home.
We have a fight-or-flight response to stress that causes muscles to tense and posture to stiffen, but while that response would have been helpful when escaping a lion on the savanna, it now sabotages us.

Since we can’t always “escape” the thing that causes this stress response — a job, for example — the constant tension can lead to our musculoskeletal system being strained beyond its capacity.
Even when we sleep, we aren’t home free. We tend to move around during much of the night, rolling from one side to another and onto our backs or stomachs. While doing so, it’s easy to tilt the head too far forwards, backwards, or to the side, which means that some other body part has to compensate for that unnatural position.

Check back next week to look at Part 2 of our blog on Treatment for Cricks!

Posted in Articles, Neck Pain
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