What is actually happening when you get a kink in your neck, and why can they sometimes last for 5 minutes or 5 hours?



You know when you first feel that twinge and you’re scared to move either way for a brief second. Why is that spasm set off sometimes and not other times.

In: Biology

I am genuinely curious as well. I used to get these a lot, and once had one so bad I actually had to go to prompt care. X-ray showed nothing but MRI later showed I had a bulging disc in my neck. I never found out the reason why they hurt so bad.

Side note: once I started doing yoga every day and watching my posture, my neck got exponentially better. Daily forward folds saved me lol.

Soft tissues in your neck get squeezed around, moved and pinched between the joints in your neck. If they bulge far enough they could possibly pinch a nerve and that’s when you get pain in your shoulder blade, shoulder and down towards your hand. The tissue might only move a little or a lot. If it’s bad enough and bulges a lot it can obstruct your movement and be hard to reduce unless you know how to treat/help someone. Other times it may be only a little displacement and probably goes away on its own with just general activities of daily living. This is very distilled down to keep it simple but it boils down to soft tissue getting moved around and pushing on surrounding tissues creating pain and stiffness. Source: I am a conservative orthopedic specialist and treat these problems for a living.

In essence kink is a overactive muscle. That can usually be caused by over work or strains like pulling the muscle etc.

Every time you use a muscle, it damages it. This is why you can build muscles for something over time, because despite how much effort is being applied, the muscles are still having to work. When muscles tear, the body will try to fix the tear. That process creates a little knot (comprised of collagen and such to repair the muscles) in the muscle that needs to be broken up either through stretching, or physical means like a massage. Eventually the body will catch up on dealing with the waste products associated with the repair, but the lymphatic system is a manual pump that needs muscles to be moving in order to move the waste product to your lymph nodes, which is why it can take so long to clear up if you aren’t moving, drinking enough fluids, or massaging the area.

An ELI5 in truth is that your body is like a road. Overusing it can cause ruts (or a crash) in the road that need to be fixed, and the people that need to fix that will back everything up causing massive traffic jams on the road that cause a lot of pain in the neck for those involved. Without someone trying to push those workers along (massage, stretching, etc) they can take hours to fix the problem and move along.

There’s kind of two different scenarios. One is when you muscles pull, that will feel like a Charlie horse in your neck, or if you have over worked it, it will hurt when you move and turn your head etc. The other scenario is a what us Physical Therapists call a “facet lock” where your spine is slightly out of alignment. That can be caused by a strain, it will feel like you have a “lock” or “block” that mechanically you can’t move a certain way. The strain should resolve with stretching or heat or just when the muscle calms down. The facet lock will have to resolve spontaneously or with a manual therapy or manipulation by a practitioner such as a PT or chiro.

I think it is a combination of blood flow being cut off, muscles being pulled in odd directions, settling in a spot too long (like sleeping) and nerve endings reacting to all that.

It will help when the neurological connection has been explained. Your brain controls your lymphatic and nervous systems, both control your musculoskeletal system. That is a gigantic connection. You can observe this for yourself with somethings that are maybe not neck cramps, like that sinking feeling that you get when your mom catches you taking a cookie.

… or 5 years?! Oy!