What to do about a stiff neck?
A stiff neck is a common problem. It often occurs due to sleeping in an awkward position, sitting in front of a computer for a prolonged period, or straining a muscle due to bad posture or carrying heavy loads that put too much pressure on the shoulders.
Other causes include anxiety and stress that create tension in the neck muscles, trauma or injury that affects the neck, and some diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis or cancer.
The main symptoms are soreness, pain and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head to the side. At times, a stiff neck may cause a headache, shoulder pain or arm pain.
A stiff neck does not usually indicate a serious medical problem, but it can hinder your daily activities and make it hard to sleep. Lack of sleep can make things worse.
This problem usually gets better after a few days or a week. However, you can use some simple lifestyle changes and home remedies to ease the pain and stiffness. If your condition does not get better within a week or if it occurs with a high fever, consult your doctor immediately.
1. Massage is a good option to treat a stiff neck.
A gentle massage will help relax the muscles while increasing blood circulation. This in turn will help reduce the stiffness. Moreover, it will help you sleep better.
- Take a hot bath or shower to relax your muscles.
- Slightly warm some olive, coconut or mustard oil.
- Apply the oil on the affected area.
- Massage using firm yet gentle strokes for several minutes.
If you cannot do the massage on your own due to the stiffness, get help from a friend or a professional massage therapist.
2. Neck Exercises:
Performing a series of neck exercises can be highly beneficial for treating a stiff neck. It will relieve tension caused by the tight, strained neck muscles.
- Sit up straight, while keeping your body relaxed.
- Nod your head forward (toward your chest) and backward (toward the sky). Repeat these motions for a few minutes.
- Tilt your head alternately down toward your left shoulder and then toward your right shoulder. Repeat for a few minutes.
- Without turning your body, slowly turn your head and look to the left, then look to the right. Alternate this movement repeatedly for a few minutes. End your exercise with a few gentle shoulder rolls.
Note: Avoid doing any neck exercise if it hurts too much.
Tip: To prevent a stiff neck, go swimming on a regular basis. It improves the overall strength of the neck and back. However, make sure that you follow the proper swimming techniques and do not overdo your workout.
3. Cold Compresses:
Soothe a stiff neck with a cold compress. The cold temperature will help numb pain and limit the buildup of lactic acid, a normal by product of muscle metabolism which can cause soreness.
- Wrap some ice cubes in a thin towel.
- Hold the compress against the stiff area of your neck for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Repeat every 2 hours for the first 48 hours.
Instead of ice, you can also use a bag of frozen peas in the same way.
Note: Do not apply ice directly on the skin unless directly indicated by your doctor.
Tip: You can try making a dixie ice cup for ice massage. Ask your doctor if you are a candidate for ice massage.
4. Heat Therapy:
If you do not get relief after 48 hours of using the cold compress, try heat therapy. Heat will increase the blood flow, which in turn will decrease stiffness.
- Apply a hot compress on the neck area for at least 10 minutes. Repeat 3 or 4 times a day until you get complete relief. A hot compress can be in the form of a heating pad, hot water bottle, heat wrap or a hot towel.
- Also, stand in the shower and run warm to slightly hot water on your neck for about 5 minutes. It is okay to turn or move your neck while doing this. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.
At our Seattle Chiropractor office, we regularly help people with neck stiffness. A gentle adjustment to the spine can significantly increase the range of motion and help to promote blood flow and healing. It doesn’t take many to make a significant improvement. If you or someone you know is suffering or frustrated with their neck stiffness, give us a call today or just stop by at:
If you would like to set up a complimentary consultation, give us a call at 206-201-0145.
Foundation Chiropractic – Seattle Chiropractic Center is located at 2326 Rainier Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144.