There’s nothing worse than waking up with a stiff, sore neck. Ouch. Neck stiffness and pain happens for a number of reasons, from odd sleep positions to spending too much time sitting in front of a computer or peering down at a phone. Did you know that the average human head weighs 10 pounds when upright? But if you lean at a 30 percent tilt (like when you’re looking at your phone!), the weight increases to 40 pounds. That’s a lot of stress on the neck!
Stiff Neck Relief
Stretching is a great way to help alleviate pain when you have a stiff neck. Start by taking a warm shower or using a heating pad or patch on your neck for about 10 minutes.
(Reminder: If any of these stretches increase pain, stop immediately. Be gentle with all of the stretches – no pulling or bouncing.)
Standing neck stretch
To perform this stretch, stand with your feet hip distance apart and your arms by your sides. Reach arms behind you by your backside and grasp your left wrist with your right hand. Using your right hand gently straighten your left arm while pulling it away slightly from your backside. Now lower your right ear slowly toward your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds then switch hands and repeat on the left side.
Side neck release
Sitting criss-cross style on the floor. Extend your right arm next to your right knee, palm facing down. Place your left hand on the top of your head and gently tilt your head to the left side. Use gentle pressure with your left hand increasing the stretch. If you want to feel a deeper stretch, try holding onto your right knee. This will help stabilize your torso and lets you isolate the stretch on the side of the neck. Hold for 30 seconds on the left side, then slowly lift up your head to starting positon. Repeat on the right side.
Stretch with a grip
Sit criss-cross style on the floor or in a chair. Make sure hips are firm in your seat and you are sitting tall. Grip hands together behind your head and place both palms on the back of your head. Next, while tucking your chin into your chest, gently press hands down toward your thighs. When pressing down make sure to use the heels of your palms to help pull your head away from your shoulders. Hold here for 30 seconds, then slowly lift up your head and release your hands.
Lie flat on your back on a yoga mat with knees bent, feet flat on the ground and arms at your side with palms facing down. Feet should be hip width apart, and heels should be as close as you can get them to your bottom. Feet should be facing parallel. Lift hips off the ground with feet and palms pressing firmly into the ground. Sway your weight from side to side to help bring the shoulder blades closer together. Do this for 30 seconds, while lifting the hips high. Release the stretch by gently lowering your bottom back to the ground. Lastly, stretch through the lower back by hugging your knees into the chest.
Foam roll stretch
Begin lying on the floor with knees bent and feet flat. Place a foam roller at the top of your shoulders and gently let your head drift toward the floor until you feel a gentle stretch. Hold for 10 seconds. Gently push legs toward your head for a massage. You should feel the roller move over your neck with little pressure. Easily lift your head when finished.
After stretching, ice can be applied for 10 minutes.
Tips for stiff neck prevention:
- Be conscious of posture.
- Take breaks often from devices.
- Be aware of your sleeping position.
- Stress can also contribute to neck stiffness. When feeling stressed, make sure your shoulders aren’t scrunched up to your ears – keep them keep them relaxed and back.
There's no quick fix, but using some of these neck pain relief topical products can help: