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Neck Spasm – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

What are Neck Spasms?

Spasms in the neck are described as contractions of the muscles in the neck which are very painful. These contractions in the muscles cannot be released voluntarily. These muscle spasms are also referred to as a charley horse or a cramp.

When the fibers in the muscle involuntarily contract, this is a spasm of the muscle. It may be for just a slight twitch or a very long period of time before the fibers ease. These muscle spasms may occur due to nerve or cervical issues triggering signals to the muscles.

Muscle spasms may be very debilitating events with the muscles of a specific body region contracting in an involuntary nature. They can affect individuals of all health conditions as well as all ages. These spasms are painful as well as paralyzing until the spasm is released.

Neck Spasm Symptoms

One major symptom of a spasm is the adjacent joints locking up. For example, neck and back spasms are the most frequent sorts of spasms. If muscles in the neck have become strained from playing golf and the individual then gets chilled, they can develop a neck spasm. The consequence is a “crick” in the muscles of the neck which prevents mobility. The individual may be unable to turn the head in certain directions for several days or even for weeks.

Any typical stress can cause fluid to accumulate which also creates painful knots in the muscles which can often be relieved with massage. A spasm can create a super-knot which encompasses numerous muscles locked in a contraction.

Cramps in the neck can also affect the muscles in the surrounding anatomical areas. The symptoms also depend on the level of involvement of the cervical spine and can be centered in the head or the face or in the arms, shoulders as well as the upper back.

These spasms in the neck are often frightening as well as also able to create neurological effects afterward. Weakness, tingling, numbness or residual pains are all issues that can linger after a powerful spasm.

Neck Spasm Causes

There are many causes for muscle spasms – some result from problems in the spinal anatomy but also occur from soft tissue injuries or a regional process, such as ischemia. Neck spasms are seen in some individual since childhood and these are called torticollis or they begin in adulthood where they are called trapezitis. Both have entirely different origins but they cause the exact same symptom, a painful and stiff neck. Injury from car accidents may also lead to spasms of the neck from whiplash injury as well as from the fracture of neck vertebrae.

Muscles in the neck develop spasms that involve muscle contractions which are involuntary. This can occur because of sudden movements which put incredible compression on the muscles. Twisting of the neck very quickly can cause excess stretching of the muscles and the fiber muscles react to this sudden movement by tightening themselves which leads to pain which is very severe. The contraction of the muscles also interrupts the flow of blood in the region which causes further irritation.


Muscle spasms can also be caused by the deficiency of nutrients such as vitamins – especially vitamin B12 and vitamin D – which are important for normal operating of muscles and can cause muscle spasms in the neck. Additionally inefficiency in calcium, magnesium and potassium can also trigger neck muscle spasms. Sodium, important to the cells of the muscles, decreases considerably due to dehydration and can cause muscle spasms. Any trauma or sleeping in an awkward manner that puts the neck in an uncomfortable position can as well cause muscle spasms.

Neck Spasm Treatment

There are many different options that can be used to treat spasms in the neck muscle. Even though the onset is often sudden, with suitable treatment, it is probable to eliminate these spasms quickly. Several of the options for treatment are listed below:


Proper massages can be useful to relieving pain. Massaging increases blood flow and helps to manage pain. A heating pad as well as a bath which is hot is also effective in treating muscle spasms in the neck.


Applying a pack of ice on the area which is affected can control the pain which is associated with spasms in the neck. Rubbing ice slowly over the area causes the blood vessels to contract. After they contract, they become exceedingly wide and this helps to increase the flow of blood to the sore area.


Pain relievers are commonly used in the treatment of neck muscle spasms. Medications such as ibuprofen as well as naproxen are effective in controlling not only pain but are very effective in reducing any inflammation or swelling.


Medicated balms which are available over-the-counter can offer great relief for neck muscle spasms. The balms normally contain menthol which raises the body temperature and this heat soothes the muscle considerably.

Muscle Relaxants

Those spasms which cause really pronounced discomfort can be treated with muscle relaxers. These medications deliver relaxation to the muscles that are affected. This medication used along with pain relievers is a very effective method for the management of muscle spasms in the neck. Prescription muscle relaxants are normally in tablet form and need to be used as advised by your physician.

Narcotic Painkillers

These should be reserve for severe muscle spasm which causes excruciating pain. These narcotic medications such as hydrocodone and propoxyphene release muscle tension as well as pain considerably. But these painkillers do have the problem of abuse or addiction as well as side effect such as drowsiness, dizziness as well as nausea.

  1. Very useful information about neck spasm is given over here…Thank you very much…it would be informative if the best resting position for people with torticollis is also included in this article…anyways great job…

  2. i just messed up my neck pretty good lol. these tips helped lots =]

  3. very helpful info. thanks so much for putting it up…going to dr with more questions then answers..

  4. I had an onset of severe pain in back of head/top of neck went to doctors who told me they didn’t know what to do gave me Tramadol the pain over the next day was excruciating to the point that i could no longer cope it went down the side of my neck and swelled up to the point i could no longer swallow properly and when lying on my back which was the only way i could it effected my breathing…..the doctor came out to me and i was told i had neck spasms and prescribed Naproxen i still have the original pain this medication has not helped at all the pain is unbearable and still unable to sleep 🙁

  5. Omg… I have given birth naturally twice and the pain I’m in now frm this nech spasam does not compare at all. What worked for me was messaging the area and applying the heating pad through out the night. This is not a joke.

  6. i tried warm compressed and massage. It helped ease the pain and lessen the muscle cramps on my neck and now i can slightly move my neck thanks

  7. very useful and comprehensive info

  8. I have the same symtoms as Rose D . Have had these symtoms on and off for years. I was dignosed with esopheagl spasms years ago and i just wounder if its comming from that. All i know is its very painful. Not much they can do for it just has to run itr course. Wouldnt wish it on the devil pain is aweful 🙁 Anybody with the same trouble that might have some suggestions please let me know. Thanks

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