Article by Dr MS Krishnamurthy MD (Ayu) Ph.D (Ayu) and Dr Hebbar.
Stiffness of the neck or rigidity is a consequence caused due to aggravated Vata Dosha when lodged in cervical region (neck). Though this is observed as a complication in many neurological and orthopedic disorders, it is usually found in mumps, cerebral haemorrhage, cervical dislocation, osteoarthritis of the neck joint, acute otitis media (ear infections) etc.
Stiff neck is broadly explained as Manyastambha in Ayurveda.
Stiff neck causes
Use of hard or a thick pillow
keeping the arm beneath the head while sleeping
Keeping the arm beneath the pillow while sleeping,
activities involving prolonged raised arms such as flying a kite for a hour,
direct neck injury,
Regular day sleep,
Improper lying or sitting postures,
Lifting heavy objects in shoulder or head,
heavy exercise to the neck and shoulder,
constant pressure over the cervical region,
constantly watching a far object for a long period of time,
excessive intake of Vata-kapha dominant food – coolant, cold, sweet and salty in taste, heavy to digest oily food stuff, frozen foods etc.
pulling heavy objects forcefully etc.
Origin of the disease
Due to the above said factors the joints, veins and nerves get fatigued or lose their tension. Meanwhile if Vata causing food and habits are followed, the vitiated Vata gets blocked in the neck location and the stiffness is caused. As the back or nape of neck (Manya) is commonly involved, it is called as Manyasthambha. Often the disease Manyasthambha is also correlated with Torticollis (wry neck).
Clinical features of stiff neck:
Severe and persistent pain in the neck,
inability to rotate the neck,
difficulty to see the upper objects
inability to bend down the neck,
heaviness of the neck,
often swelling in both the sides of the neck,
rarely radiating pain to the shoulder or back,
sleeplessness due to pain,
morning stiffness etc are the features of this condition.
X-ray and MRI scanning are useful to know the exact mechanism and possible extent of the diseased condition.
The causative factors are to be withdrawn immediately. The affected part always kept warm. If hospitalized, wise physician proceed with Nasya (errhines) therapy, herbal smoking (Dhumapana) ; it gives significant results.
Other than this, local mild massage (abhyanga) and sudation(swedana) are advised with proper medication and appropriate time duration.
Single herbs useful in stiff neck:
1. Bala – Sida cordifolia – useful to soothen nerves
2. Bilva – Aegle marmelos – balances Vata, relieves inflammation (one among Dashamoola).
3. Rasna- Alpinia galanaga – relieves pain
4. Gokshura – Tribulus terrestris – anti inflammatory
5. Shallaki-Bosswellia serrata- relieves pain and inflammation
6. Guggulu – Commiphora mukul – relieves pain and inflammation
7. Saindhavalavana – Rock salt – specific to relieve stiffness
8. Sesame oil (Tilataila) – good Vata balancing oil
9. Rala – Shorea robusta – relieves stiffness
10. Shaliparni – Desmodium gangeticum – anti inflammatory (one among Dashamoola)
11. Prishiparni – Uraria picta – – anti inflammatory (one among Dashamoola)
Internal medication :
1. 101 Avartita ksheera balataila
2. Maharaja prasarin taila
3. Gandha taila
4. Gokshuradi guggulu
5. Yogaraja guggulu
6. Ekangaveera rasa
7. Maharasnadi kwatha
8. Sahacharadi kashaya
9. Rasnaiaranadi kashaya
Wholesome diet and habits
1.Do not try to exercise neck in the initial stages. It will only make it more painful.
2. Hot water bath is better for this condition than cold water bath.
3. Apply any of the above mentioned oils and do gentle massage, 10 minutes before bath, to the entire part of neck and then take hot water bath.
4. Shashtika shali (Red rice)
5. Godhuma (Wheat)
7. Medicated milk prepared out of garlic, coriander etc.
8. Rest to neck and shoulder
9. Proper and systematic exercise to the neck etc.
10.If the stiffness is associated with pain, then applying cold ice pack brings relief.
Unwholesome diet and habits
1. Day sleep
2. Intake of curd, unctuous substances etc
3. Fried and oily food
4. Dry substances
6. Heavy exercise and exertions
7. Two wheeler driving
8. Improper positions
9. Potato, sweet potato, jack fruit, yellow and red gram, peanuts etc.
Due to busy and hectic work schedule people often suffer from the complaints like neck rigidity. The people who work with machines, computers and heavy objects (lifting, pulling etc), sports persons are more prone for stiffness of the neck. Care and caution during their job and weekly Ayurvedic massage will reduce the chances of neck stiffness.