Stiff Neck Remedies You Can Do At Home (7 Ways)

Estimates reveal that between 30% and 50% of adults experience neck pain at least once each year.

A stiff neck is one type of neck pain that is characterized by discomfort and difficulty moving the neck, especially to the side.

A stiff neck may also be accompanied by other symptoms including headaches, as well as shoulder and/or arm pain and stiffness.

Chances are, you’ve dealt with a stiff neck at some point during your life – maybe upon waking up, or after strenuous activity. Often, the discomfort and stiffness naturally subsides within a week or two. However, if you’re dealing with a stiff neck, you may be looking for remedies that can help to ease your discomfort and encourage healing so that you get you back to your normal activities.

What Causes a Stiff Neck?

There are a number of reasons why you might be suffering with a stiff neck, the most common being a muscle strain or sprain. Other not so common causes include disorders of the cervical spine, and infections. Below, we’ll get into a little detail about each of these causes.

Muscle Sprain/Strain

Muscles in and around the neck like the Levator Scapulae, Upper Trapezius, Sternocleidomastoid and others can get strained or sprained by activities you do every day including:

– Awkward sleeping positions.
– Repetitive activities that involve side-to-side neck movement.
– Neck injury from sports, slip and falls, and/or car accidents.
– Poor posture, especially postures that tilt your head to one side.
– Stress that leads to knots in the muscles of the neck.

Disorders of the Cervical Spine

Your neck is comprised of many components including vertebrae, intervertebral discs, and your spinal cord. When your neck is misaligned, pain and stiffness can result. This pain and stiffness can be a signal that there’s an underlying condition including:

Herniated disc
– Facet joint disorders
– Osteoarthritis of the neck
Pinched Nerve

Infections

Common viral infections, such as the flu, can cause neck stiffness as well as other characteristic symptoms including fever, chills, and body aches. However, more serious infections such as meningitis and osteomyelitis can also lead to neck stiffness along with other symptoms. For example, meningitis is a bacterial infection of the fluid membrane of the brain and spinal cord that results in inflammation leading to neck stiffness, headache, high fever, and nausea. If you notice this constellation of symptoms, it’s important that you seek medical attention immediately because this can be a life threatening situation.

How To Lower Your Risk of Suffering a Stiff Neck:

If you want to avoid suffering a stiff neck in the future, there are a few things that you can do to protect yourself, including:

Always Use Good Posture

If you get in the habit of always using good posture, you’ll be less likely to suffer from a stiff neck.

Keep Your Neck Healthy

When the muscles of your neck are flexible and strong, they’re able to maintain good posture throughout the day and are less likely to spasm and lead to neck pain and stiffness. Try to incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises into your regular routine to keep your neck healthy.

Sleep on Your Back or Side

These two positions are the best for your neck as they help to keep your spine in a neutral position. More on this at the bottom of this article.

Set Up An Ergonomic Workstation

If you sit at a computer desk all day, you’ll want to make sure that your computer monitor is positioned properly to avoid straining your neck and slouching forward. A couple of tips:

1. Ensure that the top third of your screen is at eye level.
Ensure that your monitor is placed 18 and 24 inches from your face.

2. Put Your Phone Down
Constantly looking down at your phone can cause an enormous amount of strain on your neck. Minimize the amount of time your spend texting, and if you need to use your phone, make sure you take breaks frequently.

More sitting posture tips at a desk here

7 Remedies For A Stiff Neck:

1. Rest

Epsom Salt
Giving your body a day or two to rest will allow the injured tissues time to start healing, which will help to relieve neck stiffness. However, limit rest to a couple of days because too much inactivity can actually lead to a worsening of symptoms.

2. Ice and/or Heat Therapy

ice upper back
Applying ice packs to your neck for 15-minute intervals during the first 48 to 72 hours can help to reduce inflammation and pain. After the first 48 to 72 hours, applying moist heat to the area, for up to 20 minutes, can help to promote blood flow to the area and encourage healing. Additionally, the warmth can help to soothe sore muscles. You can also alternate these two therapies for optimal results.

Ice VS Heat For Back and Neck Pain

3. Self Massage Techniques

Using self massage techniques can help to soothe and relax tense neck muscles, thereby providing you with symptoms relief.

A simple neck massage technique to try:
Neck massage
1. Begin in either a sitting or standing position.
2. Place two or three fingertips on the back of your neck where your neck meets your shoulders.
3. Apply firm pressure and hold the area.
4. Release when the muscle feels more relaxed.
5. Roll your shoulders forwards and back slowly.
6. Repeat three times.

If you also have shoulder stiffness, you can also try this simple shoulder massage technique:
Shoulder and Neck Massage
1. Position the fingers of your right hand over your left shoulder (your upper trapezius will be underneath your palm).
2. Squeeze your upper trapezius three times and then roll your fingers over the muscle starting from the outside and moving towards the base of your neck.
3. Repeat on your left side.

Check out more self massage techniques here

Next,

You should start simple neck stretches as soon as your body is able to tolerate it. Stretching helps to ease muscle tightness and restore normal range of motion of the neck.

Below are some simple neck stretches to try:

4. SCM Stretch

SCM Stretch
– Begin in a standing position with your neck retracted.
– Tilt your head to the right and rotate your chin upwards to the left until you feel a slight stretch on the left side of your neck.
– Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds.
– Repeat on the other side.
– Aim for 3 repetitions of this stretch.

5. Neck Flexion

neck flexion
– Begin in a seated position, looking straight ahead.
– Retract your neck and hold your chin back with one hand, and reach your other hand over the top of your head.
– Stabilize your chin as you gently pull your head forward until you feel a slight stretch in the back of your neck.
– Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds.
– Aim for 3 repetitions of this stretch.

6. Seated Levator Scapulae Stretch

Levator Scapulae
– Begin in a seated position and grasp the bottom of your chair with your right hand.
– Bring your chin in towards your chest and rotate your head towards the left shoulder.
– Then using your left arm gently push your head down looking towards your left armpit until you feel a slight stretch along with right side of your neck.
– Hold this position for 15 to 20 seconds.
– Repeat on the opposite side
– Aim for 3 repetitions of this stretch on each side.

Here is a video on how to stretch the Levator Scapula muscle.

7. Sleeping Position

Sleeping with your neck in proper alignment is crucial for treating a stiff neck. Ideally, you want to sleep on a firmer mattress and match your pillow height to your sleeping position.

If you sleep on your back:

Sleeping on the back
– It’s best to use a thinner pillow to maintain the natural curve of your neck.

If you sleep on your side:

Sleeping on the side
– It’s best to use a thicker pillow so that your head and neck are positioned in the middle of your shoulders.

If you sleep on your stomach:
– It’s best to avoid this sleeping position because it places additional stress on the muscles of your neck. If you can’t avoid this position, try to either use a very thin pillow or skip using a pillow all together.

Also, Check out this video for more stretches:

Conclusion

If you’re suffering from a stiff neck, using the therapies mentioned above should provide some relief from your symptoms. However, if your symptoms linger, you should consider consulting with a healthcare practitioner to ensure that your symptoms aren’t due to an underlying condition.

Related:
Exercises for a pinched nerve in the neck
Cervical herniated disc exercises
7 Specific upper back stretches
How to get rid of neck pain

Sources:
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2899974/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4893402/
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0269215515575747?journalCode=crea/0269215515575747?journalCode=crea
https://www.jmptonline.org/article/S0161-4754(16)30192-0/fulltext
health.clevelandclinic.org/do-you-have-a-stiff-neck-try-these-simple-remedies/

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