Due to changes in how work is done over the last few decades and the advent of mobile phones, our posture has rapidly changed.
We spend most of our days sitting or peering into our phones. Consequently, our necks suffer the brunt of it all. In this article, we will examine the different remedies for a stiff neck that actually work!
What Is Neck Stiffness?
A stiff neck is a classic sign of a strain in one or more of the neck muscles due to poor posture or misuse. It could be a ‘real pain in the neck’ because it makes moving the head to look at things to the side or behind you really difficult.
It may be due to a number of triggers which includes posture, sports, exercise, or strenuous work. You may also reflexively stiffen your neck if you have a pain originating from the bones or ligaments in the neck.
Due to the nature of the neck, it is susceptible to strains. This is because of the mobility of the neck, the degree of motion as well as the support it gives to the head. Neck stiffness is very common as about 20% of adults have had a stiff neck within the previous 90 days.
A key factor in neck stiffness is the cause of the stiffness and pain. The intensity of pain and the degree of stiffness depends on the cause of injury. While you may have neck stiffness from landscaping or doing housework, it is unlikely to be as serious or severe as neck stiffness resulting from a sporting injury.
The former is likely to cause you short-term mild pain and discomfort while the latter would often cause you great pain, neck tightness and difficulty carrying out your regular activities.
The common symptoms that may accompany a stiff neck include:
- Soreness and pain
- Tightness in the neck
- Shoulder pain
- Arm pain
- Loss of range of motion
- Jaw pain
- Tingling around the neck
- Difficulty getting comfortable while sleeping
Usually, a majority of stiff necks will resolve by itself in a few days. This is because most cases are caused by a muscle strain that would heal by itself naturally. A key part of resolving your neck stiffness is to improve your posture. Poor posture contributes immensely to the development of a stiff neck.
Additionally, it is imperative to sleep in a comfortable and supportive position while reducing stress. If your neck stiffness lasts longer than a few hours, is severe or you have other accompanying symptoms like a fever, headache, nausea or weight loss, it is best to seek immediate medical advice.
6 Stiff Neck Remedies That Work
After suffering from a stiff neck, it is imperative to take things easy for the next few days. This gives the body the best chance to heal itself. However, prolonged resting may be detrimental in the long run so it is best to limit rest to only one or two days. Resting for longer increases the risk of muscle weakness.
2. Ice Or Heat Compress
Apply ice or heat to the neck area. This should be done at intervals for around 5 minutes each, several times a day, started within 2 days. They work by reducing local inflammation thereby bringing relief to the sore areas and increasing blood flow to the neck to improving healing.
3. Use Pain Relievers
This will help reduce pain in and around the neck and improve mobility. There are a number of over the counter pain relievers that can help you with neck pain and stiffness, such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
Avoid sudden jerky movements around the neck area. Although you are required to keep moving, sudden movements across your neck will only cause you pain and increase inflammation. Simple stretches as tolerated helps restore the natural range of motion. Walking is also a great way to help improve healing of your neck muscles.
Gently massage your neck area. You may choose to use a topical pain relief medication to reduce pain and inflammation in that area. You may choose to see a massage therapist for this.
6. Reduce Stress
Eliminate stress and anxiety in your life. This is a difficult task but should be attempted. There is a link between stress levels and muscular tightness. If your neck stiffness worsens or does not improve after a few days, you may need to see your doctor.
Sometimes, a stiff neck may be a pointer to a serious underlying condition like a degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, torticollis or meningitis. Your doctor may request for some imaging tests such as an X-ray, Computed Tomography scan or an MRI, to find the underlying cause of your neck stiffness.
Preventing Neck Stiffness
Regular exercise is important for keeping our bodies healthy and at peaks of fitness. It helps to lower stress levels, reduce inflammation, improve healing, improve sleep, increase energy reserves, aid muscle development and control weight.
When fit, the risk of sustaining injuries such as a stiff neck reduces. This is because prolonged inactivity due to a sedentary lifestyle weakens our muscles, including the necks muscles. This means that not only will the range of motion around a joint reduce if you are unfit, but the risk of sustaining an injury when there is a need to make repeated or sustained movement around the joint increases.
If you can, you may kick things off with simple exercises around the home to improve mobility around your neck. There are special exercises for building neck muscle strength, so consult a physical therapist for a routine that will be most beneficial for you.
2. Sleep Well
Averagely, the human adult requires about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. While the length of sleep is very important, the quality of sleep is much more important. One of the causes of a stiff neck is a poor sleeping posture.
This not only reduces the quality of sleep but causes you discomfort when you are awake. If you already have a stiff neck, sleeping on your side is your best bet to avoid worsening the situation. Sleeping on your side keeps your spine in the best alignment for recovery.
3. Improve Your Posture
This is best achieved by making simple but effective changes to your lifestyle at work and at home. At work, it is best to keep your computer at eye level. This will minimize the additional tilting and turning you would need to do when using your computer, thereby avoiding neck pain.
When at home, avoid slouching and hunching postures. This is because these positions create undue tension in the neck. Actively checking your posture and occasionally moving around throughout the day also helps.
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