Waking up with a stiff neck can throw off your entire day. The pain and limited range of motion make everyday activities difficult. You may wonder what caused it – sleeping in an awkward position, stress, or poor posture. Regardless of the cause, you want relief quickly so you can go about your day. Follow these tips to get rid of a stiff neck fast.
One of the best ways to find fast relief is to apply heat to the affected area. The increased blood flow will help loosen up the muscles and reduce pain. Try using a heating pad, hot water bottle, wheat bag, or warm wet towel for 10-15 minutes a few times a day. Be careful not to burn yourself. You should feel a soothing warmth. You can combine heat with over-the-counter pain medication for added relief.
Gently Stretch and Massage
Gentle stretching and massage can also provide stiffness and pain relief. Tilt your head carefully toward each shoulder, holding for 10 seconds on each side. Be sure not to over stretch to the point of pain. Use your hands to gently massage the sides and back of your neck. Have someone massage the area for you if possible. Apply a small amount of lavender or eucalyptus oil to massage for added benefit.
Try OTC Medications
Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can reduce inflammation and pain associated with a stiff neck. Follow all dosage recommendations carefully. You can alternate using heat and medication for optimal relief. Don’t take more than one NSAID at a time.
Use Cold Therapy
Using cold therapy can be remarkably effective for neck pain and stiffness relief. It works by reducing inflammation quickly. Use an ice pack wrapped in a towel or even a bag of frozen vegetables. Apply to the affected area for intervals of 15 minutes a few times throughout the day. Always place a barrier between your skin and the ice to avoid damage to your skin.
Get Plenty of Rest
When experiencing intense neck pain and stiffness, be sure to get adequate rest. Sleep allows your body to repair damaged muscle tissue. Use an orthopedic pillow that supports proper neck alignment as you sleep. If the pain interferes with your ability to sleep, talk to your doctor about suggestions to help you rest comfortably.
Stay Hydrated and Loose
Dehydration can make muscle soreness and stiffness worse. Drink at least 64 ounces of water daily while recovering from a stiff, painful neck. Electrolytes from coconut water or sports drinks can also help hydrate the soft tissues and prevent cramps. Light activity will keep you from tightening up too. Go for gentle walks whenever possible. Just don’t overdo it.
Visit Your Chiropractor
Seeing a chiropractor can work wonders for stiff neck relief, especially if the cause is misalignment in the cervical vertebrae. A chiropractor will assess your neck mobility during an exam and then perform manual neck adjustments to improve alignment and range of motion. Most patients experience significant pain relief after just one visit.
Talk to Your Doctor
Severe neck stiffness that persists more than a few days may require medical attention. See your doctor if your pain interferes with daily tasks, mobility issues persist, or you experience tingling in your arms hands. They can assess for underlying injuries or neurological conditions and provide medication for pain and muscle relaxation if needed. Rarely, severe untreated neck injuries can have serious complications.
Use Proper Posture and Ergonomics
Prevent a stiff, sore neck by using proper posture and ergonomics whether sitting at your work desk or lifting heavy items. Hold your phone to avoid hunching over during lengthy conversations. Adjust your rearview mirror when driving to keep your neck comfortably aligned. When at a computer, follow ergonomic guidelines. Make posture adjustments throughout your day. Stay mindful.
Don’t Wait to Take Action
The sooner you take proactive measures at the first sign of neck stiffness or soreness, the faster you’ll get relief. Allowing the inflammation to get significantly worse or nerves to become impinged can prolong pain and mobility issues. Utilize several of these remedies at once for optimal results. With consistent stretching, rest, proper ergonomics, and anti-inflammatory modalities you’ll be moving your neck freely in no time.