What causes a stiff neck?
A stiff neck is described as a pain or ache that prevents you from carrying out day to day activities. When experiencing bad neck stiffness, you may need to turn your entire body to look left or right. You can get a stiff neck for many reasons. It can develop due to sleeping in a “funny” position, can be brought on by certain sports, and can be caused simply by poor posture, such as being sat incorrectly at a computer for long periods of time.
How to fix a stiff neck?
Take it Easy
First thing’s first, you need to reduce your heavy lifting. Continuing as normal can cause much more serious damage to your neck and your spine. It’s not a good idea to keep pushing yourself and will only serve to put you out for longer. That being said, you should also aim to keep marginally active to prevent extra muscle stiffness. Know your limits!
Certain stretches can be effective in relieving the tension in your muscles. It is importnant not to push yourself too far though, if the pain is truly unbearable you should stop and contact your doctor. These stretches are best to be repeated throughout the day to help loosen up your knots and kinks.
- Keeping your eyes level, turn your head sideways, as far to the left as you can go until it starts to hurt. Hold the position for a few seconds and then slowly return to face forward. Do the same to the right and repeat these steps as many times as you need to feel an improvement.
- Place your chin down towards your chest and slowly roll your head to the right, backwards, to the left and then down to the front again. Continue this action slowly until you have moved round 10 times.
Ice Packs vs Heat Pads
Depending on the cause of your neck pain will determine whether you should be using ice or heat to help relieve your symptoms. If you have pain due to injury, it is best to use ice. But if you have pain caused by muscle spasms or tension then heat is the way to go.
- Apply the heat or ice to the affected area and leave it to work its magic. Ice may be more difficult to withstand for long periods of time but the numbing should reduce your pain.
- Reapply throughout the day to help to keep your pain at bay.
- Alternatively, you can try a hot bath or shower for some heat action; the water will help to relax your muscles even more.
Menthol comes from the mentha genus of plants and the oil can be used as for massaging the affected area. It has pain relieving properties and also stimulates the thermoreceptors in skin cells which results in the cooling effect.
- Mix a few drops of menthol oil with a tablespoon of carrier oil such as olive oil.
- Massage into your neck, or better yet get someone else to massage it in!
- You should quickly begin to feel the cooling sensation in your muscles as the oil penetrates into your sore areas.
Hot Chili Oil
Chili oil is easy to make at home and is extremely effective for aches and pains. The chili compounds help to increase blood circulation to the surface of your skin, which results in faster healing time and an amazing heat sensation that takes away the pain. You will need 8-10 hot chilies and a cup of olive oil.
- Chop 5 hot chilies into small pieces.
- Add them to a saucepan containing 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and mix them together.
- Heat up the mixture slowly and on a very low heat, being careful not to brown the chilies.
- As soon as the mixture is hot (but not cooked) remove from the heat and pour into a separate jar containing the rest of the olive oil.
- Mix well and add the remaining whole chilies.
- This oil will get hotter over time but will be effective immediately. Store in a cool, dark place.
Massage has been shown to work on a cellular level to ease pain and act as a pain reliever. It can be effective for neck stiffness but it may be best to visit a professional massage therapist if your pain is very bad. There are some techniques you can do at home but just be cautious and stop if you experience serious pain.
Some people suffer from chronic neck stiffness. In these cases it may be a good idea to try acupuncture therapy. Acupuncture works by using very thin needles to stimulate the pressure points of your body. This can directly relieve the pain in your neck and also reduce any stress you may be feeling which will help in cases that are caused by tension.
How to prevent neck stiffness?
Improving your posture, especially while you work is the first step to preventing a stiff neck. You should use a hands-free kit if you need to use the phone regularly and be sure your desk is set up correctly if you use a computer. It may also be worth trying a different kind of pillow for when you are sleeping. Some of the memory foam pillows are specifically designed for people with neck and back problems. Also, take care when participating in sports; it can be easy to get carried away and then have to deal with the consequences later.