Muscle Spasms in Neck

Muscle spasms in neck, common in today's stressful lifestyle is usually not a cause for concern. The following HolisticZine article discusses some common causes and remedies of neck spasms.
HolisticZine Staff
Last Updated: Apr 23, 2018
Spasmodic muscle twitches in neck, limits movement of the head to either side. It is a type of muscle cramp, that disturbs the normal pattern of contraction and relaxation of the muscle. Neck muscle spasms are characterized by pain, swelling, rigid tightness, and sudden muscle contractions in the affected area.
Causes
Nutritional Deficiency
Deficiency of certain nutrients such as vitamins, particularly vitamin D and vitamin B12 that are essential for normal functioning of muscles, can cause neck muscle spasms. Even deficiency in magnesium, potassium, and calcium can trigger spasmodic muscle contraction in neck.
Dehydration
Sodium, an important constituent of muscle cells, decreases significantly due to dehydration which can result into muscle spasms. Sodium in moderation can play a key role to build muscle mass and improve muscular strength.
Trauma
Neck muscle strain resulting from an accident such as a car collision is one of the common triggers of muscle spasms. In such accidents, the victim often experiences sudden jerks to his head, which can be strenuous to some of the neck muscles. Such type of injuries not only cause stiff neck but also leads to headaches, shoulder pain, and frequent episodes of uncontrolled muscle movement.
Inappropriate Posture
Sitting in a position that provides no support to the back and neck area is bound to cause neck pain and is followed by spasmodic activity of the muscles. This inappropriate posture that puts strain on the neck muscles is often observed in corporate offices wherein employees are glued to the computer for hours, least bothered about the way they are sitting. Twisting the neck quickly also causes over stretching of muscles and the fiber muscles react to this unexpected action by contracting themselves leading to severe pain. This contraction of muscles disrupts the blood flow in the area causing further irritation.
Strenuous Workout
If your strenuous workout session involves lifting heavy weights, apart from cardiovascular exercise, you are likely to be hit by neck muscle spasms. This is because the act of lifting heavy objects puts some amount of tension on the neck muscles. This can cause uncontrollable shaking of muscles, which recedes and eventually goes away, once the exercise is stopped.
Alcoholism
Involuntary movement of muscles of the neck and cramps have also been linked to excess alcohol consumption. Alcohol dehydrates the body by inducing excess production of urine. Dehydration can disturb the electrolyte balance and make you prone to muscle spasms that may occur in any part of the body including the neck.
Cervical Herniated Disc
Disc herniation of the neck can also lead to muscle spasms and is often accompanied by radiating pain that travels all the way down to the arms. People with cervical herniated disc often experience neck pain when moving the head. The cervical spine (neck) is a stack of 7 bones that are spaced apart by circular tough elastic tissue, commonly referred to as disc. When the disc dislocates from its normal position, which is often age-related, the condition is known as herniated disc. The displaced disc exerts undue pressure on the nearby nerve root, causing pain and muscle spasm in the affected area.
Cervical Spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis is the result of aging process in which the joints, bones, and the discs of the neck degenerate with time. In this condition, discs become stiff and joint mobility is severely affected. Abnormal protrusions known as spurs may also develop on the affected bones and subsequently compress the nerves. The symptoms that are usually observed after 60 are muscle spasms, a stiff neck, and pain that worsens when, sneezing, coughing, and turning head. When the nerve gets 'pinched', one may experience pain that shoots down to the arms and legs. Occasional headaches that start from the back of the neck have also been reported by people affected with cervical spondylosis.
Torticollis
Torticollis is a condition in which the neck appears tilted, making it difficult to turn the head. Due to the twisted neck, the head chronically leans to one side. This may be an inborn defect, or occur from damage to the cervical spine. Sleeping in an awkward position can also cause torticollis. When this unnatural positioning of the neck is marked by recurrent episodes of muscle spasms, the condition is known as spasmodic torticollis. However, in most cases of torticollis, muscles situated on one side of the neck tighten chronically due to muscle spasm. Infants who lie on the back in the same position, for prolonged periods of time are also at increased risk of torticollis.
Self-Care Measures
Massage
A proper massage can also contribute in relieving pain. Taking the help of a therapist in performing massage would be the best option for optimum results. Massaging improves blood flow, thereby helping to control pain. A massage machine can work wonders on the neck muscles. The machine basically loosens up the muscles, thereby reducing the discomfort to a great extent.
Heat
A hot bath or application of heating pad is also effective to get relief from muscle spasm. Bath water containing Epsom salt is also useful for muscle pain relief.
Topical Ointments
Medicated ointments available in the form of balm at various drugstores, can also provide great relief from neck muscle spasms. Basically, these ointments contain menthol, which raises the body temperature. The generated heat soothes the strained muscle considerably. These medicated ointments are a unique blend of high quality ingredients that increase blood flow and accelerate the healing process.
Medical Treatment
Painkillers
Pain relievers are commonly prescribed to treat abnormal contraction of muscles in neck. Medications such as ibuprofen not only help to control the pain, but also reduce the inflammation associated with it. Anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen are also highly effective in reducing neck pain and swelling.
Muscle Relaxants
As the name suggests, these drugs that display sedative properties, provide relaxation to the affected muscles. These medications interfere with electrical signal of the brain that controls muscle movement. This in turn helps to calm down the spasmodic activity of muscles. Available in a tablet form, muscle relaxants should be used appropriately as instructed by the health care provider to avoid possible side effects. Following are the muscle relaxants:
  • Metaxalone (Skelaxin)
  • Carisoprodol (Soma)
  • Methocarbamol (Robaxin)
Narcotic Painkillers
People with severe muscle spasms are sometimes advised to take narcotic painkillers. The excruciating pain can be significantly lowered with these drugs. These narcotic pain medications, such as propoxyphene and hydrocodone, relieve muscle tension considerably. However, abuse of these strong painkillers can cause dizziness, drowsiness, and nausea. One can also get addicted to these drugs. So consultation with the doctor is very important to know about the required dosage of these medicines to suppress muscle spasms.
Magnetic Therapy
This form of treatment has also been effective to alleviate muscle spasms in the neck. Marked by chronic muscle pain, this condition can be significantly brought under control by wearing a magnetic therapy neck wrap. Buying a magnetic necklace or a supportive pillow that has magnets in it, can also help to tackle this problem efficiently.
Neck Traction Therapy
Wearing a neck traction can also contribute to alleviate pressure on the pinched nerve as well as reduce pain associated with herniated disc. Basically, the traction elongates the cervical spine by stretching the neck muscles. This may help to realign the herniated disc back to its original position and subsequently decompress the affected nerve root.
Exercises
Exercises that involve stretching the neck may help to relieve spasmodic activity of muscles. In order to get rid of neck stiffness and improve range of motion, 5 minutes of neck stretches may be helpful.
Botulinum Toxin
Neck muscle spasms can also be effectively treated with botulinum toxin type A. Basically, the toxin is a muscle relaxant, so when it is administered intravenously, the repeated muscle contraction ceases.
In most cases, muscle spasms in neck is temporary and associated with inappropriate posture. Simply correcting the posture and taking self-care measures works to stop the spasmodic activity. People affected with age-related neck problems often find relief by wearing traction.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.