How Stiff Necks Happen: And Remedies To Keep You Loose
Stiff neck remedies can be short-term, like anti-inflammatory medications and compresses. These may help loosen up the neck and shoulders temporarily. Longer-term solutions may include exercises, and physiotherapy techniques like acupuncture or massages, depending on the root problem.
Your neck can become tight due to injuries, poor posture, or chronic illnesses.
There are short-term stiff neck remedies like medications and hot packs, and long term solutions like physiotherapy.
Prevention is also important. Exercising and maintaining good posture while awake and asleep can help.
Did you know?
Neck pain and tightness has been linked to mental health states. One study from the Brazilian Journal of Physiotherapy found that widows who worked desk jobs were more likely to develop stiffness in that area.
Got a tightness creeping up between your shoulders? Have a literal pain in the neck that you can’t explain?
Muscle and joint tightness can creep up for many reasons, and the base of the neck is a major hot spot. Thankfully, there are plenty of stiff neck remedies that may help.
The first step in unwinding the knots is determining the type and severity of the problem. As long as it’s not an extreme case there are plenty of potential solutions, from medication to mobility exercises. Many of these you can test out immediately.
What Causes Stiffness in the Neck?
Stiffness in the neck is usually a symptom of problems with the upper back and neck muscles. The upper portions of your spine - thoracic and cervical - can also be a source of pain, leading to tightness
Some of the problems that occur cause severe pain and immobility while others only cause mild discomfort.
Posture-Related Neck Stiffness
Desk work is becoming more and more common across the world, and while it can feel like a privilege at first it also requires a bit of caution. Studies have shown that craning your neck to get a look at a computer screen or a keyboard can cause neck pain over time, leading to pain and tightness in the neck.
Poor Sleep Posture
When you wake up and can’t move your neck it’s generally a sign that you were in a poor sleep position. Having the head propped up too high or too low can place your neck in awkward positions. Stay like that overnight and it’s a recipe for a crick in the neck.
Medical Issues Leading to a Stiff Neck
In addition to the more general causes of neck stiffness, there are also several specific medical issues that can also lead to tightness in that area:
- Acute injuries like whiplash or weightlifting injuries
- Herniated discs in the upper spine (cervical or thoracic)
- Illnesses causing inflammation like the cold or thyroid conditions
How Long Does a Stiff Neck Last?
Depending on what the root problem is, a stiff neck can start to feel better within a day or two. However, recovery from more serious issues like whiplash may be a matter of months.
If it’s a posture-related problem, some people start to see results from stretching and strengthening exercises within a week or so.
You may want to consider seeing a doctor or physiotherapist if your neck stiffness persists for more than a couple of weeks or is accompanied by severe pain.
How To Relieve Neck Pain
The type of stiff neck treatment you go with depends on what the root problem is, but some solutions are accessible for anyone.
Some of these are more for temporary relief while others can put you on the path to recovery.
Medications for Neck Pain
The easiest way to get stiff neck relief could be with over the counter pain medications. In particular, you may want to give non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or ibuprofen a try. They can help bring down internal swelling of muscles and joints, which is one possible way to loosen a stiff neck.
Hot and Cold Compresses for Neck Pain
Another stiff neck home remedy is hot and cold packs. Cold packs should be used immediately after an injury. So if you just got back from the gym and are in pain, it might be a good time to give it a try.
Hot packs, on the other hand, are better for tightness that pops up daily as they stimulate blood flow to an area. This can help loosen up the neck, but may cause more problems if the injury just happened.
Rehabilitation for Neck Painc
The solutions above are great in a pinch, but the fastest way to cure a stiff neck for good may be with the help of a rehabilitation specialist. That could involve several things including stretches, strengthening exercises, acupuncture, and massages.
The number one thing not to do with a sore neck after an injury is to exercise it, but if it’s more of a dull tightness or ache posture-related exercises like the following can be beneficial:
- Wall angels – stand with arms and back against a wall, arms forming an L with the forearms perpendicular to the ground. Move arms up and down slowly, keeping the head firmly against the wall.
- Neck stretches – Tilt the head to left, right, and down toward the ground. You can also do a chicken wing stretch if you’re not experiencing pain.
- Face pulls – More of a shoulder exercise, but it can help with pain at the base of the neck, too. Secure a rubber exercise band just above head height and pull each end toward either side of the head.
Preventing Neck Pain
The best way to relieve neck pain is to not have it in the first place. And the best way to avoid a stiff neck is by keeping it in check throughout the day.
Here are some tips for staying ahead of the neck pain curve:
- Sleep on your pillow properly. Shallow pillows for back sleepers and thicker pillows for side sleepers.
- If you’re a back sleeper, try our Cuddling bolster pillow behind your neck. This can support the spine’s natural curve. Body pillows like our Cuddler may also help keep the spine aligned when used properly.
- If you work at a desk, ensure it’s the right size. The monitor of your computer screen should be level with your eyes.
- Try full-body exercises that strengthen the muscles in the upper body.
- Do neck and shoulder stretches throughout the day
Still have questions about stiff neck remedies? Here are some of the common ones.
Is Heat or Ice Better for a Stiff Neck?
Heat is generally a better option for a stiff neck if it’s an ongoing problem. For example, if you’re frequently tight at specific times in the day, a heat compress can work wonders. In those cases, the higher temperature stimulates blood flow, which may heal and loosen the muscles.
Ice is better for acute injuries – injuries that have just happened. So, if your neck is sore because of an accident that you just walked away from, ice may help. It works to keep swelling down, something important immediately following an injury.
Can You Massage a Stiff Neck Away?
Depending on what the root cause of the problem is, you can massage a stiff neck away. This will most likely be successful if the root issue involves muscles rather than the upper spine. However, even spinal issues can impact the muscles around them over time, so massages may help in those cases, too.
Oftentimes tension in the neck area is a result of muscle overuse or shortening in response to poor posture. Physiotherapists can sometimes work through this problem by massaging, since deep tissue massages have a similar effect to stretching the area.
What Are the Red Flags for a Stiff Neck?
The biggest red flag that can mean a stiff neck somewhere down the line is poor posture. The spine’s curve naturally supports the head when it’s looking forward, and putting it in odd positions for extended periods of time can cause strain in the opposite direction.
Desk work, extended cell phone viewing, and poor sleep posture are all areas of caution. So, setting up your workstation properly, limiting cell phone use, and using a pillow that’s the right size for your head can help.
What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Stiff Pain?
In some cases, vitamin deficiency can cause a stiff neck and pain in that area. A 2018 study found two likely causes to be vitamin D and Ferritin (a protein that stores iron).
Because of this, vitamin D and iron boosting supplementation may be another stiff neck remedy for some. Here are three ways to boost iron levels:
- Vitamin A – Aids iron absorption.
- Vitamin C – Aids iron absorption, similar to vitamin A.
- Lean meat – Source of natural iron.
Can Dehydration Cause a Stiff Neck?
Dehydration may cause a stiff neck or make pre-existing tightness worse. Lack of fluids can cause muscles to contract and even cramp in some cases, as sports medicine has frequently noted, and studies have also shown that dehydration can cause headaches. Tension from these headaches may cause a chain of problems leading down the neck.
So, how much is adequate hydration? For men, the number is roughly three liters per day. For women, it’s a little over two liters. Of course, dehydrating factors like hot weather, exercise, and diuretics such as caffeine and alcohol may lead to higher needs.
Problems with the neck can pop up for a variety of reasons, from sudden injuries to poor posture. Stiff neck remedies like medications, hot packs, and rehabilitation can help
But the best way to keep a stiff neck away is through proper posture. When asleep, ergonomic and sensory pillows like our Cuddling bolster pillow and Cuddler body pillow can help support the spine. When awake, exercise and proper posture is crucial. Nail these down and you’ll hopefully be on the path to recovery.