Nobody likes having a stiff neck. Whether it’s long hours stuck in traffic, endless days at the office, or long nights of poor sleep, there are many everyday activities that harm your neck and make it tight. Ibuprofen can only get you so far and stiff neck remedies don’t seem to be easy to come by. Or are they? Read on to find out what you can do to relieve neck pain, naturally with one or more of these 21 simple “tricks”.
Common Causes Of A Stiff Neck
Weak neck muscles are one of the most common causes of a stiff neck. Dr. Andrew Bang, a chiropractor at the Cleveland Clinic, explains how it happens over time (1):
“Now they’re weak and you go to turn and instead of the joint nicely moving it’s now out of place. Then it catches on something and pulls a muscle or hits the nerve irregularly and then you’ll have instant pain and your body will, we call it ‘protective spasm.’ It doesn’t want you to get hurt more, so it will (crunching noise) and now you’re like ‘Oh, I can’t even move.’ And you’re wondering what you did,” Bang explained.
Neck stiffness is typically characterized by soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn or tilt your head to the side (2).
This limited range of motion can be more than a nuisance, especially if you have an active lifestyle or need to do something as simple as drive somewhere.
Pain causes include:
- Muscle Strain or sprain
- Muscle spasms
- Sleeping with the neck in an awkward position
- Sports injuries
- Repeatedly turning the head from side to side
- Poor posture
- Excessive stress
- Pinched nerve
- Holding the neck in an abnormal position for a long period
- Cervical Spine Disorders, including cervical herniated disc, cervical degenerative disc disease, and cervical osteoarthritis.
Neck pain or neck stiffness normally subsides after a couple days to a week. It can be anything from mild, annoying pain to extreme pain. If your pain is manageable, and it’s not accompanied by other symptoms, it’s nothing to worry about. Pain medications may provide some relief, but they won’t address the cause. With the right stretches, care, and strengthening exercises, your neck pain will be a thing of the past!
21 Stiff Neck Remedies
Find out how to how to get rid of neck pain by reading the home remedies below. If you have chronic pain, incorporate these into your pain management routine. Remember to consult your doctor right away if you experience worsening pain or a sharp increase in pain.
1. Japanese Neck Trick
You’ll need a friend for this trick, so grab a stiff-necked coworker during your lunch break and take turns to renew your muscles.
- Lie on your back with your arms folded over your abdomen.
- Have your friend roll up a hand towel and place it under your right shoulder.
- Bend your right arm at a 90-degree angle, resting your upper arm on the floor beside and above your head.
- Touch your right shoulder with your left hand.
- Hold the position for a few seconds as you breathe deeply.
- Ask your friend to remove the towel, place it under your left shoulder and repeat.
2. Simple Neck Trick
This simple trick from the Cleveland Clinic will help get rid of a sore neck in most cases (3). Plus, you can do it in the car before going to work and during your commute home.
Here’s how to do it:
- Roll your shoulders backward and down 10 times.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times.
- Push your head backward into your car headrest or into hands and hold for 30 seconds.
- Bring your ear to your shoulder 10 times on each side.
3. 60-Second Fix
This quick massage easily brings relief to neck and shoulder pain, and muscle tension (4). All you need is your hands!
- Find the sore spot using the arm on the same of your body as your pain. If it’s on the right side of your neck or upper back, place your right hand on the area and vice-versa.
- Push your fingers into the knot using firm pressure. It should be a good hurt that you can tolerate, not a sharp pain. If you can’t quite reach, use a tennis ball and lean against the wall.
- Turn your head slightly in the direction opposite the cramp, and bend it as if you were trying to touch your armpit with your chin.
- Repeat about 20 times in a row. Follow up with a nice, long, just-got-out-of-bed style stretch.
- Repeat throughout the day as necessary.
4. Static Back Exercise
This exercise loosens up tight shoulder to release the muscles connected to your neck. This is a great passive way to loosen up those knots!
- Lie on the floor with your legs on a chair or ottoman, with both your knees and hips at a ninety-degree angle.
- Place your arms on the floor with your palms up.
- Stay here until your back settles into the floor, typically 5-10 min.
Bonus: this same position works wonders on lower back pain!
5. Static Extension Position Exercise
This stretch might feel like you’re going deeper into your bad posture, but it works! By hanging your head in front of you in this position, you are literally unlocking your shoulder girdle, which can get stuck in an awkward place. However, it is challenging and you’ll feel it in more than just your neck.
- Start on the ground on all fours, with your wrists under your shoulders, and your knees under your hips.
- Walk your hands out in front of you about six inches, then shift your body forward so your shoulders stack right over your wrists. Your hips should now be about six inches in front of your knees.
- Keep your elbows locked out straight, and allow your shoulder blades to collapse together.
- Let your head hang, relax your stomach, and allow your low back to arch.
- Hold for 2 minutes, and don’t let your elbows bend.