Neck ache has become too common a phenomenon, thanks to the huge amount of time people spend fixed on their phones and computers. And this isn’t the only reason why you may get a stiff neck that is hard to move and excruciatingly painful. Here you can learn how to get rid of a stiff neck and some dos and don’ts to follow so that you prevent getting one again.
In This Article
What Is A Stiff Neck?
A stiff neck is a condition when you find it difficult to move your neck and you feel as if your neck is stuck at an odd angle. It generally occurs when you wake up from sleep or after a day of stressful activity. A stiff neck can be painful, uncomfortable, make regular activities feel cumbersome, and prevent you from sleeping well.
A stiff neck can be caused by various reasons. Some of the most common reasons for a stiff neck are activities like looking down into your monitor or smartphone or driving for long hours.
Some of the other reasons are:
- muscle sprain
- sleeping in an awkward position
- bad posture like slouching
- injuries caused while playing sports or during a workout
Research suggests that certain mental health issues like depression and anxiety may also be factors behind neck pain (1).
Let us look at some of the ways in which you can treat your stiff neck and get rid of the accumulated tension.
Treatments For Getting Rid Of A Stiff Neck
In most cases, medical assistance for a stiff neck is not required. It can be treated at home by doing the following:
- Take Rest
Studies show that rest is important for muscle recovery as it helps in the healing process (2). The best thing for you to do when you have a stiff neck is to rest and avoid strenuous activities.
- Use Heat And Cold Therapy
Studies suggest that hot and cold therapy helps in reducing inflammation and may help reduce muscle soreness (3). You can apply an ice pack or place a hot water bag on the neck to relieve some of the pain caused by the stiffness.
- Take Over The Counter Medications
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen are commonly taken to relieve the pain caused by a stiff neck. There is some evidence to support their efficacy, but further studies are required to establish how effective and safe they are (4). Before you self-medicate, check with your doctor if it is okay to take any of the aforementioned medications.
Prevention is always better than cure, they say. Let us look at a few tips that can help prevent you from getting a stiff neck.
Tips To Prevent A Stiff Neck
Getting rid of a stiff neck in most cases is quite easy. It involves making some simple lifestyle and postural changes. Also, working out regularly can help strengthen your neck muscles and make them less prone to stiffness. A study suggests that including strength training exercises in your workout may help in reducing neck pain (5).
Some of the changes you can incorporate to help treat a stick neck are.
1. Use Ergonomic Furniture
Most of you work for long hours in front of a computer or laptop screen throughout the week. You tend to slouch while working or may use inappropriate furniture when working that may compromise your posture. This can be fixed by using ergonomic chairs.
There are a few tips that may help you maintain a better posture while working and may also help prevent a stiff neck.
- Adjust your chair in such a way that you can place your feet flat on the floor and your knees are below your hip level.
- Sit with your back straight and keep your arms at the same level as the desk.
- If possible use a keyboard and mouse that have ergonomic features.
- Adjust your monitor’s height to view it at eye level.
- Take a small walk and stretch a bit every hour or so.
2. Reduce Spending Time On Your Smartphone
Constantly looking down on your phone can cause your neck muscles to feel strained and fatigued. Studies suggest that excessive use of smartphones can increase the chances of neck pain (6).
It may be difficult to completely do away with your smartphone. These simple tips may help reduce some of the stress on your neck when using a smartphone:
- View your phone at eye level.
- Avoid wedging your smartphone between your ear and shoulder to take calls for long hours. Use wired or wireless headphones to take calls.
3. Take Breaks If Driving For Long Hours
Going on long drives and road trips is fun but at the same time, stressful on the neck. If you spend too much time driving and tend to get a stiff neck afterward, these tips may help prevent it:
- Take frequent breaks to stand and stretch.
- Consciously keep a check on your posture while driving.
- Adjust your seat to be in a comfortable position and ensure that it gives you a good view of the road.
- Switch with a friend or partner if possible.
4. Practice Neck Stretching Exercises
Another easy way to prevent a stiff neck is by regularly performing a few simple stretching exercises. Try these basic stretches that may help prevent a stiff neck:
- Place your fingertips below your chin and gently push your neck up for the upward stretch. For the downward stretch, interlock your fingers and place them on the back of your head and gently push down.
- Slowly turn your head from left to right.
5. Change Your Sleeping Position And Habits
Your sleeping position can have an impact on your neck and may cause a stiff neck if you sleep awkwardly. Follow these simple tips to avoid a stiff neck:
- Sleep either on your back or sides rather than on your stomach. By sleeping on your stomach you put too much pressure on your neck (7).
- Use feather pillows or memory foam pillows as these will adjust to take the shape of your neck.
- Avoid using pillows that are too high or hard.
In the next section, let us look at a few home remedies that you can use to help with your stiff neck.
Effective Remedies For A Stiff Neck
If you experience a stiff neck at your home, office, or gym, here are a few remedies that can help alleviate the pain.
- Get A Neck Massage
Have someone massage your neck to help relieve the pain. Make sure the pressure is gentle and not too intense. If the massage feels uncomfortable or painful, ask to stop it immediately.
- Reduce Your Range Of Motion
Avoid rapid movement with your neck, instead, gently turn your neck side to side to loosen some of the tension. You can also gently rock your head up and down as well.
- Use A Neck Collar
Use a neck collar to keep your neck upright and relieve some of the pain. Try not to use the collar for a prolonged period of time.
When To See A Doctor?
If the pain caused by the stiff neck is hindering your everyday activities, it’s advisable to call your physician. Some other situations where you may need medical assistance include:
- You experience stiffness and pain in the neck after an injury or vehicular collision.
- The pain caused by a stiff neck radiates to your arms and legs.
- You experience weakness in your arms and legs.
These signs could suggest some underlying medical issues, so it’s best to get yourself checked.
In conclusion, a stiff neck can be really stressful and prevent you from performing everyday tasks. In most cases, it is nothing to be concerned about and can be treated with a few simple home remedies. Correcting your posture and sleeping habits can also help you prevent a stiff neck. In case it persists or gets worse, you need to consult a physician.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
How do you get rid of a stiff neck fast?
You can try hot and cold therapy or use OTC medication to help with the pain.
How long does a stiff neck last?
It can last anywhere from a day or two to a couple of weeks.
What soothes a stiff neck?
A hot and cold therapy, a gentle massage, and some light stretching should do the trick.
Does a stiff neck fix itself?
In most cases, it will get back to normal on its own in a couple of days.
Can you get a stiff neck from stress?
Yes, you can.
Why do I suddenly have a stiff neck?
It could be that you have moved your neck with a lot of force very suddenly or your neck muscles are strained from looking at your phone and computer for too long.
Why is my neck stiff on one side?
It could be because you slept in an awkward position on one side.
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- Chronic Neck Pain And Anxiety-Depression: Prevalence And Associated Risk Factors
- Heat And Cold Therapy Reduce Pain In Patients With Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis Of 32 Randomized Controlled Trials
- Are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs effective for the management of neck pain and associated disorders whiplash-associated disorders or non-specific low back pain? A systematic review of systematic reviews by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration
- Effectiveness Of Exercise In-Office Workers With Neck Pain: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis
- Neck Pain Associated With Smartphone Overuse: Cross-Sectional Report Of A Cohort Study Among Office Workers
- Say “Good Night” To Neck Pain