A stiff neck can throw a wrench into your plans, but it doesn’t have to affect your whole day. Follow these tips below to stretch out the stiff muscles in your neck and get you back to doing what you love! (Even if you’re feeling okay right now, these steps can also be used to help prevent a stiff neck in the future!)
What causes stiff neck muscles?
There are a number of factors that can cause a sore neck, but these are some of the most common causes of neck pain.
- Lack of movement
- Improper posture while standing or sitting
- An accident
- Stress or anxiety
- Sleeping with your head at a weird angle
This is not a definitive list, but if your neck starts hurting for an unknown reason or it lasts more than a few days, seek medical attention, as it may be another concern that your doctor should look into.
One of the first things to know when stretching out the crick in your neck is that it can move in six cumulative ways:
1 & 2: Up and down
3 & 4: Looking to the right and left sides
5 & 6: Tilting your right ear towards your right shoulder and your left ear towards your left shoulder.
Combining these motions can stretch different muscles in your neck, so take a moment to notice where you feel relief or tightness when you look down at your belly and turn your head to look right or when you look up and tilt your left ear to your left shoulder. Check out this site to learn more about neck muscle connectivity and anatomy, if that interests you!
Many of these movements can be combined and done with your arms extended out to the sides or above your head to stretch your neck muscles as thoroughly as possible.
If you don’t want to create your own stretches, we recommend doing at least a 10-minute neck pain relief routine with WeStretch. Stretching encourages fresh blood and oxygen flow to your stiff neck and you will notice an improvement with even a short stretching session.
If you would rather read instructions and stretch at your own pace, check out the neck stretch section of WeStretch’s Ultimate Guide to Stretching.
Be careful not to stretch for longer than 30 seconds in each pose when you first start out, as to prevent further injury, and if a stretch is painful in a bad way, stop immediately and seek medical attention.
Additional treatments options for how to help a sore neck fast:
In addition to stretching, these are our top tips to address your neck pain:
- Apply a heating pad or have a hot bath if your neck is stiff and tight.
- Ice your neck if you have pulled a muscle or if it is swollen to help reduce inflammation. You can also apply cooling balms or muscle rubs, such as Biofreeze or Penetrex Pain Relief Cream. These aren’t a substitute for icing but can be helpful if you’re short on time.
- Ensure that your pillow and mattress encourage a good sleeping posture. This switch alone can help to reduce neck pain and improve your sleep overall.
- If you’re noticing that you’re developing “tech neck” (muscle strain caused by staring at a phone or computer screen), evaluate your set-up. You may need to find readjust your set-up or invest in a chair that provides both neck and lumbar support.
- Keep your neck moving carefully throughout the day. Unless movement sends sharp pain down your neck, gentle motions will encourage circulation in your neck and have you feeling better in no time!
- Sometimes, stretching and temperature therapy cannot provide enough relief from neck tension. In this case, try either massage therapy to work on tight muscles or chiropractic care to check on your alignment and posture.
- Visit your physician to address any underlying concerns that may be causing you pain.
Having a stiff neck doesn’t have to stop you from doing the things you love. Addressing your neck pain concerns as soon as you can is the best way to feel like yourself again.
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This article is not intended to act as or replace medical advice. Please talk to your healthcare practitioner if you have any concerns.
Written by Kayla Willsey
Updated September 17, 2021