Why is My Neck Stiff?

If you have wondered why your neck is stiff, you are not alone. When you have limited motion in the neck it comes from 1 of 2 places. I’ll show you the 2 tests to figure that out, and how to address each. Improving neck motion and reducing pain is literally this simple.

Here’s the part our attorneys told us to put in – if you experience any of THESE symptoms plus neck pain, go to the emergency room.

2 Tests for a Stiff and Painful Neck

  • Neck Rotation Test
  • Neck Rotation with Flexion Test

How to Perform the 2 Tests

What’s a normal neck look like?

#1 Neck Rotation Test

  • Normal is 90 degrees
  • 90 degrees means looking to the side
  • Stiffness and neck pain in either direction is failed test

#2 Neck Rotation with Flexion Test

neck range of motion
Black diagonal line = 45 degrees
  • Normal is 45 degrees
  • Essentially looking at your arm pit
  • The black line on the picture above is about right

This test can be done it sitting or with someone’s help laying down. Here’s some details on each test.

Diagnosing your Stiff and painful Neck

parts of the neck

The neck is divided into 2 parts:

  • Upper cervical = C1 and C2
  • Lower cervical = C3-C7

HALF (50%) of neck rotation comes from the UPPER cervical.

Test #1 Neck Rotation Test assess TOTAL range of motion

Test #2 Rotation with Flexion “locks” the lower cervical and assess only UPPER cervical

Stiff and Painful Neck Treatments

This flow chart tells you what treatment to use.

You’re here so we will assume Test #1 is “LIMITED.” Therefore, only 2 options for Test #2:

  • Limited, so go HERE for upper cervical treatments
  • Normal, so go HERE for thoracic spine treatments

There are exercises for the lower cervical, but I don’t use them. Working the thoracic spine will provide the same benefit, and it’s an area most people need to work on.

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    Prognosis and Summary

    You should see almost immediate improvements working on the upper cervical spine. If you don’t see SOME improvements in 1-2 weeks, then I’d go ahead and start working on the thoracic spine too.

    If you just zinged your neck, like woke up and your neck hurt, it may take a little bit longer to move pain free.

    A complete program would be working on both anyway, as well as the rest of the body since nothing works in isolation.