Over 31 million people suffer from back and neck pain every year. Whether caused by an injury, an accident or something as simple as sleeping the wrong way, this pain can be debilitating, especially if you’re not sure how to fix it or prevent it from happening in the first place.
Fortunately, though, there are many ways to reduce muscle tension and get your body feeling normal, even after sleeping the wrong way or hurting yourself.
From stretching and ice, to chiropractic treatment and prevention methods, here are five stiff neck remedies (and how to prevent neck kinks from happening in the first place).
1. Rub and Stretch
One of the easiest (and no-brainer) ways to get rid of neck pain is to apply pressure to the affected area. (This goes beyond massaging and doesn’t necessarily require another person’s help.)
Before doing any rubbing or stretching, make sure your stiff neck is, in fact, just muscle soreness and not a more serious issue. You may want to consult your doctor if you feel something serious is happening. If you have the clear to continue, or if you feel confident you just have a sore muscle, then, either use your fist or a tennis ball/small object to press down and rub on the tender area.
What’s helpful for using a tennis ball is that you can lean on a wall or doorframe to keep the ball in place and pressing down.
As you rub, turn your head to the opposite way to create a stretch. You can move your head up and down, side to side, etc. to create movement through the stretch. When you move the placement of your body around the ball, it can add another layer of pressure that can relieve the tightness or knot.
2. Use Both Hot and Cold Remedies
Heat and ice work well as treatment methods, especially when alternated. Ice numbs and reduces inflammation and the heat increases blood circulation. Using them both while alternating creates the perfect environment for healing.
It’s recommended to apply the ice for up to 20 minutes and then apply the heat (hot towel, heating pad, hot bottle, etc.) for 20 minutes. You can also break between the two sources to let your body rest.
Another treatment recommendation is what’s called contrast hydrotherapy. This is a more extreme form of ice-heat alternating. Instead of the longer 20-minute intervals with breaks in-between, contrast hydrotherapy is all about making your muscles react quicker to the temperature shifts. The intervals are about 2 minutes of heat, followed by 1 minute of cool, then repeated. You increase the temperature variation with each interval (without burning your skin, of course!).
With either alternating method, it’s important to have the temperatures change so that your body can react accordingly and begin your healing process.
3. Try Natural or Homeopathic Treatments
If you’re looking for a more natural approach, there are plenty of homeopathic stiff neck remedies you can try.
Menthol, for one, is an organic compound that can be great for sore muscles. When applied to the skin directly, skin it has a cooling effect that can help with strain. Other options are different oils (like lavender oil) or Epsom salt. Lavender oil can be applied topically and helps reduce swelling. Epsom salt is filled with magnesium and sulfates that work as anti-inflammatories. It can be absorbed into the skin through a bath.
4. Soak in a Bath
If you prefer heat therapy, or if you’re looking for something that requires fewer temperature shifts, you can choose to soak your stiff neck in a hot bath. Baths (especially with Epsom salts that act as natural muscle relaxers!) are a great and relaxing way to reduce tension and strain.
Because the muscle is fully submerged, it helps provide a more in-depth targeting of the affected area.
5. Try Chiropractic
Chiropractic care is another great way to not only treat a stiff neck but prevent it, too.
There are endless benefits to seeing a chiropractor. Routine adjustments can re-align your spinal cord and other areas into their natural position. Chiropractic can also help to naturally reduce swelling through manipulation of joints. Because it’s an ongoing treatment method, you can use it both preventatively and when the injury or tension occurs.
Other Stiff Neck Remedies
Consider how your posture may play a role in your stiff neck: How and where are you sitting in a normal day? Are you sitting with proper posture? Are you leaning your shoulder to your neck to hold a phone in place? If you’re working with computers, do you have a back cushion? Is your computer screen at eye level?
These are all little things you can take note of to improve your day-to-day posture and reduce strain on your neck.
It might also be worth thinking about changing your sleeping habits. If you’re sleeping on your stomach or at a weird angle, try laying on your back or side. If you have a larger pillow, consider using a smaller one that won’t force your head to be raised unnaturally or pinching your neck and shoulder.
Now Get Yourself Feeling Better
Lowering the daily strain on your neck can help with your spine, back, head, and can even help to reduce headaches. Whether you’re struggling with an injury or just trying to get yourself feeling better after a rough night’s sleep, it’s important to try stiff neck remedies like icing, heating, stretching, and chiropractic care, as these are non-invasive and often effective methods for reducing pain and getting you back to normal!
To learn more about how to fix your neck pain, see other resources to help with sore muscles, or to learn more about the benefits of chiropractic care, click here.