Back and Neck Injury/Knots in neck for several weeks


Dear Dr. Ornstein,

I am a fit & active 39 y/o male.  Height 5'7, weight 157 lbs.  In recent weeks I have developed a stiff neck.  The muscles directly below my skull (top part, back of neck) are really knotted up and it's difficult to turn my head in either direction.  

I've experienced this sensation at times in life before but never even remotely close to this long.  

What are some possible causes and what can I do to remedy the situation?


Hi James,

There are many reasons this could be happening. The main thing to rule out is any fever associated with this. The suboccipital muscles can go into spasm and cause problems rotating the head. There may be muscle spasm alone, or there can be headaches associated with it. Problems in this area can be cause by poor posture, stress or overuse. It is also possible that the muscles can go into spasm as a result of misalignments of the joints.

You can take some over the counter pain reliever, perhaps Ibuprofen if you are able to help reduce any inflammation. To affect the muscles and joints in the area, you can try the stretch/exercise maneuver at neck exercises and it is the color graphic illustrating a cervico-cranial flexion motion where you nod your head. The motion is important and if you are doing it right, you should feel it in that area. It has the potential of producing some immediate relief. If this helps, you should work on this and do it regularly to help strengthen the deeper neck muscles.

You may also try some deep massage in the area. A good tool to help with this is the neck release, although you can try using a tennis ball. Place under the area and let gravity press into the muscle. This can be painful, so take it easy. Eventually, the muscle should loosen up and you can try using some rotation motion while doing it.

If these measures do not effect a positive change, you should look into a chiropractor that specializes in the upper cervical region. You can find a doctor in your area here.

All the best!

Dr. Steve

Back and Neck Injury

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Dr. Steve Ornstein


I can answer questions regarding neck and back pain treatment and general musculoskeletal conditions. Acute, chronic and degenerative conditions using various methods; exercise, rehabilitation, traction. Pain relief methods and professional quality products via website at which can be used at home.


Graduated Chiropractic College in 1987, working in numerous clinics within two states using a variety of manual and physiological therapies. Involved in martial arts for 20 years.

Chiropractor Sherman College, Certified in Physiological Therapeutics from National Chiropractic College, Certified Peer Review Consultant from New York Chiropractic College, Studied with Dr. Cox using Flexion Distraction Technique, Studied with Dr. Leahy using Active Release Technique. Myofascial Release with Dr. Rockwell - Parker Chiropractic College. Certified in Modic Antibiotic Spinal Therapy.

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