Stiff necks are painful and annoying, but they are also very common. Most people will experience a stiff neck at least once during their lifetime.
Stiff necks are caused by many different factors, including poor posture, sleeping positions, muscle spasms, and even stress. Fortunately, there are several natural remedies that can help relieve stiffness in your neck.
Neck pain is often the underlying issue that results in a stiff neck. Neck pain happens because the muscles around the neck become tight and tense. When this happens, the nerves get pinched and irritated, causing pain and stiffness.
In this article, I'll share with you the top remedies for a stiff neck and neck pain, along with prevention tips to help you avoid having a stiff neck in the first place.
How to Relieve Neck Pain
Relieving neck pain is one of the most important things you can do to prevent stiff necks and future problems from occurring. It's best to treat any kind of neck pain as soon as possible to reduce the risk of further injury.
The following are some of the more effective ways to relieve neck pain.
1. Apply Ice and Heat
Apply ice packs or cold pads for the first 24 to 48 hours to reduce inflammation and swelling. This helps ease the pressure on the nerve endings.
After using ice, start using heat therapy with a heating pad to relax the muscles and increase blood flow. This increases circulation, which reduces neck stiffness.
Whether ice or heat, apply it to the area for 20 minutes at a time with at least 40 minutes of rest in between.
Be sure to also wrap ice or heating pads in a towel to avoid burning the skin.
Getting a massage may feel like a luxury, but it can actually help relieve neck pain. A good massage therapist can loosen your stiff muscles and work out all the kinks in your neck, shoulders, and back.
A massage can help improve blood flow, decrease tension, and promote relaxation.
Stiff muscles can cause neck pain, so proper stretching can help loosen those neck muscles. Use these easy stretches to relieve and avoid neck pain:
- Lateral Neck Stretch - Slowly bend your head to each side for 5 seconds, while keeping your back and shoulders still. You will feel the stretch on the opposite side of the shoulder you're bending towards. For example, bend your head to the right shoulder to feel the stretch on the left side of your neck.
- Forward and Backward Neck Stretch - Slowly bend your head forward and backward, holding for 5 seconds each.
- Neck Rotation - Slowly rotate your head from side to side. Turn to each side as far as you can without pain and hold for 5 seconds. This stretch is often the most difficult for stiff necks. Move only as far before the pain increases.
Before performing any stretches, keep in mind that if the movement is increasing pain, stop immediately and do a different stretch. Continued movement can cause further injury.
4. Acupressure and Acupuncture
Acupressure and acupuncture techniques have been used for thousands of years to relieve pain. These traditional Chinese medicine treatments involve applying pressure or needles to specific points on the body to relieve pain.
Benefits of Acupressure to Relieve Neck Pain
Using acupressure to relieve neck pain has several benefits.
- It can be done anywhere - no special equipment needed.
- You don't need to go to a doctor or hospital.
- Safe for most people.
- Can apply acupressure on yourself.
How to Use Self-Acupressure Techniques for Neck Pain Relief
Acupressure is convenient because you can apply pressure on basic acupressure points on yourself for neck pain relief.
Using acupressure cushions and pillows are also simple, effective at-home solutions to relieve neck pain.
The Kanjo Acupressure Neck Pain Relief Cushion is a popular choice as it is easy to use for quick relief. Simply place it on the floor or couch and lie down, so it's under your neck and upper back.
If you prefer to sit upright, the Kanjo Neck Pain Relief Support Cradle is for you. It's light and will help correct your posture while sitting. Great to use while at the computer to provide proper posture.
Please note, acupressure should not be used if you are pregnant, have high blood pressure, or have open wounds.
5. Over the Counter Pain Relievers
For short-term neck pain relief, you can take over-the-counter medications (OTC) and pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
However, OTC pain relievers don't provide long-term relief for chronic neck pain, nor resolve the underlying issue of the neck pain.
They can come with risks, including stomach upset, bleeding, and kidney problems. Do not use it for long periods of time unless instructed by a doctor.
6. Adjust Sleep Position and Environment
Poor sleeping habits and the position you sleep in can affect your neck.
Sleeping on your stomach can cause neck pain. This is because your head tilts forward and your neck muscles tighten up, causing them to become overworked and sore. If you suffer from chronic neck pain, you may want to try sleeping on your side or back.
A pillow with neck support should be used while sleeping on your side and back. Sleeping with your head on a pillow that's too soft can cause your neck muscles to shorten and tighten up. This can lead to headaches, soreness, stiffness and pain.
7. Exercise and Yoga
Stiff necks are often caused by poor posture, which causes our stiff muscles and pain. Regular exercise can help improve your posture by strengthening your muscles and prevent injuries.
Yoga is one of the best exercises to help loosen tight muscles and keep them flexible, so you can maintain good posture throughout the day. Certain yoga poses can help decrease stiffness and increase circulation.
8. Avoid Physical Activities that Accentuate the Pain
Limit and avoid physical activity that aggravates and increases your neck pain. For example, lifting heavy objects, driving, playing sports, and using computers with no rest can all exacerbate neck pain.
9. See a Chiropractor
A chiropractor can treat the underlying cause of your neck pain by manipulating your neck joints and muscles. Chiropractic treatment is a good option for short-term relief.
How to Prevent Getting a Stiff Neck
There are several ways to help prevent neck pain, including lifestyle changes.
1. Stretch Regularly
Holding your head and neck in a fixed position for too long can lead to stiff necks and pain. This is especially true while working at a computer.
When sitting at your desk, it's important to get up and move around every 45 to 60 minutes. Perform the neck stretches mentioned earlier to loosen the neck muscles.
2. Ergonomic Work Environment
In addition to standing up and stretching while working from a sitting position, you can make ergonomic adjustments to your workplace to help while you work.
- Adjust your chair and computer screen, so the screen is at eye level for proper computer posture.
- Lower your chair, so your feet are flat on the ground and your knees are slightly lower than your hips.
- Use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse.
- Use the Kanjo Neck Pain Relief Support Cradle for help with an ergonomic posture.
3. Adjust Phone and Screen Positions
The majority of us hold our phones by our chest and stomach, causing strain on neck muscles when looking down. Hold your phone up to eye level to reduce neck strain.
Don't use your shoulder and tilted head to hold the phone while talking. Use earbuds when talking for long periods of time.
4. Adjust Driving Position, Take Breaks
Driving involves sitting in a fixed position for long periods of time. Take regular breaks and avoid bending your neck forward continuously for long periods of time.
Adjust your seat for good posture support.
5. Change Sleeping Position
Only sleep on your back or side. Don't sleep on your stomach because your neck will twist to one side for many hours. That will lead to strained neck muscles.
Getting a pillow with neck support will also help, especially if you prefer sleeping on your side.
When to See a Doctor for Your Neck Pain
It's important to see a doctor if you have severe pain in your neck, shoulder, and back. If you're unable to perform your regular daily activities, it could be a sign you have a more serious injury.
If the pain spreads from your neck to your shoulders, back, arms, hands, or legs, you should seek medical care. More serious neck injuries include a herniated disc, pinched nerve, fractured cervical spine, and a bulging disk.
Your doctor will be able to refer you to a specialist or perform more medical tests for more severe injuries. They can also use a cortisone or steroid injection into nerve roots or neck muscles for pain relief.
If you have chronic neck pain, you can also see a physical therapist for physical therapy, exercises, and electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to provide relief and help prevent future neck pains.
Stiff Neck Relief Final Thoughts
There are several things we can do to keep our necks healthy. It's not always easy to change your habits, but these tips will help you relieve and prevent stiff necks.
Kanjo provides several neck pain relief solutions based on Eastern and Western medicine that can be used for at-home treatments. These products can help massage your neck and loosen strained neck muscles, giving you a big sense of relief.
- Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/neck-pain-a-troubleshooting-guide-to-help-you-relieve-your-pain-restore-function-and-prevent-injury
- Cleveland Clinic: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/do-you-have-a-stiff-neck-try-these-simple-remedies/
- Medline Plus: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000802.htm
- Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/neck-pain/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20375587