You’re sitting at your desk, typing away at your keyboard, and all of a sudden – your neck tightens up. Perhaps you’ve kept your head in one position for too long or you’re working too many days with long hours. Home remedies for a stiff neck can ease the pain, soreness or discomfort that comes when you try to move your neck.
The neck involves a lot of different important structures of the body, including the cervical spine, spinal cord, cervical discs, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and spinal nerves. When you experience stiffness in the side of your neck, it is usually because one of the above structures is affected.
Since the neck is associated with the trachea, throat, and associated structures (such as the Adam’s apple), a stiff neck can arise when these body parts are affected by diseases, disorders and other conditions. Affected muscles, tendons and ligaments of the neck, shoulders and head can also cause stiffness. Examples include poor posture and tension headaches.
Neck stiffness often emerges when the musculoskeletal system is disrupted with common causes including muscle strains, ligament sprains, spinal cord trauma, and whiplash. Diseases and other medical conditions that can cause a stiff neck include a brain aneurysm, cancer, fibromyalgia, migraines, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, heart attack, and the flu.
Other causes of a stiff neck include:
• Sleeping in a position that strains the neck muscles
• Long phone calls without using a headset
• Poor posture
• Improper pillow support
• Turning the head to one side while typing
• Strenuous activities and sports
A stiff neck may occur on its own or develop with other symptoms attributed to an underlying cause. You may experience difficulty turning your head, headaches, pain in the shoulders and arms, disrupted sleep patterns, and irritability.
A stiff neck can make it more difficult to watch TV, do work, surf the Internet, play with the kids, and complete other activities. Consider self-treatments to avoid the complications of frequent stiffness, such as chronic pain, disability, and poor quality of life. Home remedies for stiff neck can provide instant relief, especially if neck stiffness is a chronic condition. A handful of suggestions include:
Remove tight knots in the neck by gently massaging the neck in the natural direction of the muscles. This treatment provides relief for contracted muscles by improving blood circulation.
Roll up a dry towel and use it to support the head and limit movement of a stiff neck. Use a safety pin to fasten the front or back of the material to keep the rolled-up shape. Place the towel behind the neck to act as a cushion while lying in bed or sitting in a chair.
Place a heating pad on a stiff neck for 15 to 20 minutes every two or three hours. Make sure that the pad is turned to a low or medium setting.
Take two aspirin every four hours to reduce the pain of a stiff neck that is swollen.
From learning how to effectively meditate to proper breathing techniques, reducing stress and tension in your life helps heal a stiff neck.
Relieve the tension in neck muscles by taking a hot shower, which acts as a gentle massage. The heat also delivers a penetrating effect.
If you are prone to a stiff neck in the morning, sleep on your back. Some people will also place a pillow under the curvature of their spine for better results.
The draft of an open car or bedroom window can cause the neck to stiffen, especially for the elderly. When sleeping at night, make sure you are out of a draft’s way. Windows positioned close to the head should be shut to decrease discomfort.
Sometimes the muscles in your neck will lock into place. A quick walk around the office, house or neighborhood will revive the muscles and help ease away the ache.
Move your neck up, down, and side-to-side to remove the kinks out of a stiff neck.
If you spend a lot of time on the phone at home or make a lot of calls at work, use a headset or speaker phone to minimize the strain to your neck. Cradling the phone on your shoulder will cause a neck to stiffen.
The way you lift heavy objects can cause neck pain – lift with your knees and not your back.
Your posture can affect the way not only your neck feels by the end of the day, but also the rest of your body. Avoid slouching in your seat or tilting your head forward. When sitting in your chair, sit straight with support for your lower back. Feet should be flat on the floor and your shoulders in a relaxed position.
Avoid sitting in one position for long stretches of time – make it a habit to get up and move about. Take short breaks to stretch your neck muscles.
If you frequently work at a computer, a document holder places your paperwork at the same level as the screen, which reduces the risk of neck strain.
Place a cold compress (or ice pack) wrapped in a cloth on your neck. The coldness should soothe swollen, sore neck muscles. Leave it on for a couple of minutes.
A quick fix for a stiff neck is a bag of frozen vegetables. Peas work well because the contents are quite flexible against the neck.
Gently rotate your head and neck in a clockwise motion, and then switch to a counter-clockwise approach as a way to stretch stiff muscles.