You hear your alarm sounding, which means it is time to wake up. As you turn around to retrieve your phone, you realise that you can’t turn your neck and it HURTS REALLY BAD. You sit up and try to crack your neck in hopes that you’d feel better, but it doesn’t work. Then it occurs to you that you’ve gotten a stiff neck.
I’m sure at some point in time in our lives, we’ve gotten a stiff neck. It’s not a pleasant experience as your neck stays stiff, tensed and painful throughout the day.
What is a stiff neck?
Stiff neck is often characterised by neck soreness and difficulty moving or rotating your neck from side to side. Scientifically, it is often caused by a muscle strain or soft tissue sprain. The levator scapulae muscle, which connects the neck’s cervical spine with the shoulders, is a vulnerable muscle that is prone to strains and injuries. It is also the one that causes you to get a stiff neck.
How do you get a stiff neck?
Due to the susceptibility of the levator scapulae muscle, strains may easily happen through simple everyday activities. Here are some of the common ways that a stiff neck can occur:
- Stress and anxiety
- Sudden impact to the head or neck area e.g. Sports injuries
- Sleeping without proper support and/or in an awkward position
- Poor posture (slouching) when watching TV (or just sitting in general)
- Text Neck – looking down when using electronic devices e.g. Phones, computer monitors
Sometimes, the stiff neck can also be a symptom of a headache, fever or more serious medical conditions.
What to do if you have a stiff neck?
If you know your stiff neck is caused by one of the above reasons, we have some articles on how to take care of it:
- Stress and Poor Posture: The Most Neglected Part of Your Body – The Neck
- Sleeping Posture & Position: The Best Sleeping Positions For Your Neck and Back and Neck aches? Try Changing Your Pillow!
- Text Neck: Why do Millennials get ‘Text Neck’
These articles will provide a more in-depth and targeted approach to helping you resolve your stiff neck. As such, we won’t be touching on them again in this article.
Here are some other ways that you can treat your stiff neck:
Since stiff neck is caused by muscle strain or sprain, it is recommended that you take it easy on your neck and rest. By doing so, this will allow your muscles and tissues to recover and heal naturally!
This is why if you take a nap or sleep in the proper position and posture, your stiff neck will generally feel better when you wake up.
Ice and/or heat therapy can also help to reduce and relieve any inflammation in the area. Ice therapy will help reduce inflammation while heat therapy will help promote blood circulation to the area, which allows your body to heal better.
Visit the Doctor
Should your stiff neck be too painful for you to handle, a visit to the doctor can get you medicine that helps reduce inflammation and/or painkillers to soothe the pain.
For more serious occurrences where your stiff neck persists over a week and you also get other symptoms (e.g. fever, headache, nausea or vomiting), it is recommended to seek a medical professional immediately.
How do you prevent a stiff neck?
The reason why many people experience stiff necks is due to their bad habits that they may knowingly or unknowingly do on a daily basis. The following are some ways that can help prevent stiff neck:
Sitting upright with both feet flat on the ground
This ensures that your back and neck are in its natural position and not bent over, which is the common culprit of neck pains! Also, sitting with both your feet flat on the ground is the recommended sitting posture, compared to sitting crossed-legged or having one leg crossed over the other.
Taking frequent work breaks & stretch
For most of us, we sit at our office desks 5 times a week for 8 hours at a go. Sitting down for an extended period of time is not good for our backs and necks. As such, it is important to take frequent breaks, even if it is just a short walk to the restroom or to simply stand and do some simple stretches! This will ensure that your muscles do not “go to sleep”.
Stretching will allow tensed and tight muscles to loosen up, which helps to prevent stiff neck while being beneficial for your overall body! Read our article that teaches you some simple stretches to get rid of a stiff neck at work here!
These two methods may sound very simple, but they are often not practised and forgotten during our daily lives. It takes conscious effort to remind yourself before it becomes part of your lifestyle! For a quick neck/shoulder pain relief, check out NeckHeat which helps relieve your neck and shoulder aches and pains through the use of heat therapy!
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