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How to Prevent and Treat a Stiff Neck: Remedies and Exercises

A stiff neck can be uncomfortable and disrupt your daily activities, as well as your ability to sleep comfortably. More than 17 percent of women and more than 12 percent of males had neck pain and stiffness in 2010.

With the widespread use of mobile devices and laptops, which force individuals to crane their necks at uncomfortable angles, this percentage is rising. Neck strain is most commonly caused by gazing down at your phone, laptop, or other devices. The muscles and soft tissues of your neck are strained in this hunched position.

Other causes may include:

  • poor posture
  • clenched jaw
  • stress
  • repetitive neck motion
  • osteoarthritis
  • neck or spinal injury

We'll look at how to relieve neck stiffness and pain, as well as how to avoid it in the future.

Stiff neck prevention

Many times, some lifestyle changes and ergonomic workplace tools can help you avoid a stiff neck. Breaking bad habits, such as poor posture, can also help with prevention. Regular exercise can also strengthen your muscles, making them less prone to strain or injury.

Neck pain can also be avoided by not smoking or quitting smoking. It's not easy to give up smoking. Consult your doctor to develop a smoking cessation strategy that is right for you.

Create an ergonomic workplace

Many people spend eight hours a day at a computer desk. This can cause a stiff neck, as well as other health problems. Here are a few suggestions for avoiding a stiff neck at work:

  • Adjust your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are slightly lower than your hips.
  • While sitting, maintain an ergonomic posture by keeping your back straight and your arms level with the desk.
  • Make sure your computer is at eye level.
  • Use a mouse and keyboard that are both ergonomic.
  • Every hour, get up and stretch and move.

Limit how long you look at a smartphone

Looking down at your phone all of the time pulls on your neck muscles and puts them under constant strain. If you frequently use your smartphone, try some of the following tips to relieve neck strain:

  • Keep your phone close to your face and at eye level.
  • Holding your phone between your shoulder and ear is not a good idea.
  • Use headphones or earbuds.
  • Every hour, take a break from your phone.
  • Stretch after you've finished using your phone to help your muscles relax.

Don’t drive for long periods at a time

Sitting behind the wheel of a car can affect your neck in the same way that sitting at a desk all day can. Here are some tips for avoiding a stiff neck if you have to drive for long periods of time:

  • Stand up and stretch during your breaks.
  • Make a reminder on your phone to check your posture while driving.
  • Place your seat in a way that gives you the most support and encourages good posture.
  • Texting while driving is not a good idea. Constantly looking up and down from your phone to the road is illegal, dangerous, and bad for your neck.


Stopping to stretch every now and then is a great way to avoid getting a stiff neck. Stretching includes the following:

  • Back and forth with your shoulders.
  • Several times, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • On each side, slowly move your ear to your shoulder.
  • Turn your head slowly from side to side.

Change your sleep position

Your sleeping position can also have an impact on your neck. Sleeping on your side or back relieves neck tension better than sleeping on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach, you're putting a lot of strain on your neck for a long time, which can lead to pain and stiffness.

You can buy a pillow with neck support if you sleep on your side for all or part of the night.

Stiff neck remedies

Your sleeping position can also have an impact on your neck. Sleeping on your side or back relieves neck tension better than sleeping on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach, you're putting a lot of strain on your neck for a long time, which can lead to pain and stiffness.

You can buy a pillow with neck support if you sleep on your side for all or part of the night.

Apply heat or ice

To relieve neck inflammation, apply ice for 20 minutes several times a day. Alternate between using ice and applying heat. A warm bath or shower, as well as the use of a heating pad, may be beneficial.

Take OTC pain relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as the ones listed below, can help alleviate the discomfort:

  • ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • naproxen sodium (Aleve)
  • acetaminophen (Tylenol)

Stretch but avoid sudden movements

Stretching can help relieve pain and stiffness, as well as prevent it from occurring again. It's crucial to stretch slowly and gently. More inflammation, pain, and a more serious injury can result from sudden movements. Before stretching, use a heating pad or take a warm shower.

Stretches include:

  • In a circle, roll your shoulders backwards and forwards.
  • Repeat by pressing your shoulder blades together and holding the position for a few seconds.
  • Turn your head slowly from side to side.

Get a massage

A trained massage therapist can help loosen and stretch your neck and back muscles.

Try acupuncture

Acupuncture is a technique in which needles are inserted into specific pressure points on the body. Acupuncture has been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years, but more scientific research is needed to identify proven benefits. Only go to a licensed practitioner who uses sterile needles.

Consider chiropractic care

Chiropractors are trained to manipulate muscles and joints in order to relieve pain. Some people may find this type of therapy to be unpleasant or painful. You can talk to a doctor about how comfortable you are.

Limit physical activity

If the stiffness and pain in your neck started after you did some physical activity, you should stop doing it until the stiffness goes away. When you have neck pain, however, you should avoid heavy lifting and activities that aggravate your neck muscles.

Reduce stress

You can tense the muscles in your neck as a result of stress. Neck pain and stiffness can be treated and prevented by reducing stress. You can choose from a variety of methods to reduce stress, including:

  • listening to music
  • meditation
  • even if it's only for a few hours away from the office or a stressful environment, taking a vacation or break
  • doing something you enjoy

Exercise regularly

Exercise can help you prevent injuries by strengthening your muscles. Exercise can also aid in the relief and prevention of neck stiffness by improving posture. It's also a fantastic way to relieve stress, which could be the source of your stiff neck.

Adjust your sleep environment

A stiff neck can be relieved by changing your sleeping environment. There are a variety of ways to alter your sleeping environment, including:

  • getting a firmer mattress
  • using a neck pillow
  • sleeping only on your back or side
  • relaxing before going to sleep
  • wearing a mouth guard if you’re grinding your teeth at night

When to see a doctor

You should see a doctor if your neck pain is interfering with your daily activities. Other reasons to seek medical help include:

  • pain began as a result of an injury or a car accident.
  • a numbing sensation that travels down your arms or legs
  • weakness in your arms, hands, or legs
  • headache alongside pain
  • these extra symptoms could indicate a more serious neck injury, such as a herniated disk, pinched nerve, bulging disk, or arthritis.

The takeaway

A stiff neck that causes minor pain can usually be treated at home with ice, heat, and stretching. You should see a doctor if your pain does not go away after a few days or if you have any other symptoms.

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