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What is a “Crick” in the Neck?

What is a “Crick” in the Neck?

What is it?

A “crick” in your neck is a lay-term for sudden onset of pain that is intensified with specific movements of the neck.  Typically, movement is limited and intensified when the affected person leans their head back or to the same side of the injury.  Medically, this condition is called cervical facet syndrome which means pain originating from the joints within the neck. 

What causes it?

Any sudden movement has the potential to injure the joint.  The joint is made of two boney joints with a synovial capsule that produces synovium fluid that nourishes the joint.  The joint also has two smooth cartilage surfaces to the top and bottom of each joint and a small extension of the joint capsule, known as a meniscoid.  The meniscoid is a cushioning tissue that protects the cartilage surfaces of the top and bottom vertebrae from getting injured.  

If the joint capsule gets overstretched (car accident, football tackle, a fall) or if the meniscoid tissue gets pinched (head bob associated with falling asleep, arthritic boney changes), the joint can become inflamed resulting in pain and swelling of the joint.

How do I know if I have it?

If you get a sudden onset of sharp neck pain with same sided neck pain that is intensified when bending your head back and to the same side, you probably have facet syndrome.  Symptoms will typically not radiate below the elbow and will involve muscle spasming to the neck and shoulder blade regions.

How long do symptoms last?

Typically speaking, this condition will usually be bothersome for a few weeks.  However, this is the condition that responds best to chiropractic treatment!  It will usually improve rapidly after only 1 or 2 visits.  Be aware, if you continue to aggravate (try to stretch toward the painful side) the condition, it may last longer than you wish.  

How can I treat it?

Stretch the neck AWAY from the side of pain and avoid stretching toward the side of pain for about 5 days post-injury.  Use 10 minute ice application to the neck and shoulder blade.  Massage and light repetitive exercise to the neck and shoulder muscles will reduce muscle spasm and pain.


Dr. Custer is the owner/operator of Better Care Chiropractic & Physical Therapy.   Dr. Custer combines his 15 plus years of experience in injury rehabilitation (as an athletic trainer) with his chiropractic education to promote a fast and efficient recovery process.  

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