With so many of us staring at computers or looking at our smartphones most of the day, it’s no wonder we have neck pain. In fact, data from the 2018 National Health Interview Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 16.1% of adults experienced neck pain in the past three months.
A stiff neck typically develops when muscles weaken over time due to poor posture or misuse, says chiropractor Andrew Bang, DC. “When your neck muscles weaken and you try to turn your head, the joint no longer moves smoothly because it’s now out of place,” says Dr. says explosion. “often the joint catches on something, either pulling on a muscle or hitting the nerve in an irregular way, or maybe both.”
“then you will have instant pain and your body will go into a protective spasm. your body doesn’t want you to hurt yourself anymore, so it will contract, making you feel like you can’t even move and leaving you wondering what you did to hurt yourself.”
Looking at the computer monitor all day can cause the muscles around your neck joints to become tired and overstretched. driving for long periods of time, as well as looking at your smartphone, can have the same effect. and doing this day after day can add to and displace your neck joints.
remedies for stiff neck
For minor and common causes of neck pain, try these simple remedies:
apply heat or ice to the painful area
use ice for the first 48-72 hours, then use heat after that. heat can be applied with warm showers, hot packs, or a heating pad. make sure you don’t fall asleep with a heating pad or ice pack to prevent skin injury.
take over-the-counter pain relievers
doctors recommend ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
However, avoid jarring or painful activities. this helps calm symptoms and reduce inflammation.
Have a partner gently massage the sore or sore areas. When doing this, communication is key. have your partner try a variety of techniques until they find one that feels good.
“You’ll want them to say, ‘How does this feel? Do you want more or less pressure? That’s what a massage therapist will do,'” says Dr. Burst. “Then keep adjusting until you both find the sweet spot.”
No matter which technique you choose, however, he recommends that any massage motion be directed toward the heart. this matches the way blood flows in your veins, the bluish-purple lines visible under your skin. too much pressure in the wrong direction, away from your heart, has the potential to damage a valve.
make sure you have the right mattress or pillow
try sleeping on a firm mattress without a pillow or with a special neck pillow.
wear a soft neck brace
Ask your health care provider about using a soft neck brace to relieve discomfort. do not wear the necklace for a long time. doing so can weaken your neck muscles.
stretches to help with a stiff neck
the key to relief from a stiff neck is proper stretching and manipulation, dr. says explosion. Doing slow range-of-motion exercises—up and down, side to side, and ear to ear—can help gently stretch your neck muscles. Certain yoga poses can also help relieve stiffness.
Here are some other specific stretches you can try at your desk or in the car that may help you avoid torticollis:
- roll shoulders back and down 10 times.
- squeeze shoulder blades 10 times.
- push head back into car headrest or hands and hold for 30 seconds.
- bring ear to shoulder 10 times on each side.
tips to prevent neck pain
Here are some ways to prevent the neck pain that comes with a stiff neck.
be aware of your sleeping positions
dr. Bang says that if your neck bothers you, you should pay attention to your sleeping positions. she sleeps only on her side or back, never on her stomach, she says.
“When you sleep on your stomach, you often end up turning your head to one side or the other for hours,” says dr. says explosion. “Sleeping on your stomach can also affect your lower back because your belly sinks into the bed if you don’t have enough support.”
practice the correct posture in front of the computer
To help you avoid neck pain, place your monitor at eye level, sit up straight, and avoid tilting and twisting your head down or to the side while at the computer. Also, be sure to take breaks from looking at the screen.
be aware of how you are sitting in the car, or while using your phone
When you’re driving or using your smartphone, be sure to take frequent breaks and avoid having your neck bent forward for long periods of time, dr. says explosion.
how long does neck pain last?
The duration of neck pain depends on a variety of factors. This includes what type of injury caused the acute (or sudden) neck pain, such as a car accident, sports injury, or strained muscle from working outdoors, and how you respond to the injury.
“Many times, symptoms can go away over a period of months if you stop engaging in the offending behavior,” says dr. pop. “Neck pain from car accidents can last a long time. But if you don’t have another car accident, your pain will usually go away in a few months. however, if you don’t change a habit that causes neck pain, like misusing a computer monitor, it’s going to last.”
If the pain persists and gets in the way of your daily activities, or any treatment you try doesn’t seem to be working, further discussion may be in order. “If you’ve tried a few things on your own and after two months it hasn’t gone away, it’s probably time to see your doctor to find out if there’s an underlying problem or if there are any behaviors you need to change.”