You might have felt the back of your neck paining after you enjoyed reading your book or after an uncomfortable sleep. A stiff neck is the most common complaint in medical conditions. If not treated properly and early, a stiff neck could cause difficulties in our regular life too, preventing us from doing our work efficiently.
There are multiple reasons why you can have a stiff neck and there are various ways to cure it. However, the recovery time depends on its severity, pain level and the method of treatment. Usually a stiff neck can be recovered within a week or two. But in adverse cases, it may take more time or would require an expert or doctor to help heal it.
There are several causes and home remedies for stiff neck listed below that you can be aware of to avoid having a stiff neck next time!
What Is Stiff Neck?
A stiff neck can be classified as a soreness and difficulty in moving the neck especially from side to side. A stiff neck can often be accompanied by headache, neck pain, shoulder pain or arm pain. It may require you to turn your entire body to look sideways or over the shoulder because of the stiff neck.
A stiff neck is more likely to develop over time due to weakening of the neck muscles because of a poor posture or misuse. It occurs when one of the muscles of the neck is under a lot of strain or becomes tense. A very common cause of stiff neck is also heavy strain on the shoulder areas. It can be due to carrying something heavy or a whiplash during exercising or an incident.
It is, however, not too serious issue and can be dealt with at home itself too. The recovery time may be one to two weeks depending on how much the pain is and what the cause was. Only in very serious cases where stiff neck is accompanied by fever or irritability, it may prompt you to consult a doctor. Otherwise, you can use the natural remedies for stiff neck to treat it at home yourself.
Causes of Stiff Neck
Minor Sprains And Strains
A stiff neck is often caused by strain or minor injury on the muscles around the neck. It might be because of several reasons like wrong or awkward sleeping position, sitting or slouching for a long period of time such as driving or sitting at a desk or while looking down at an object continuously like a mobile or book.
An injury or strain may also take place because of a sports injury, or a fall or accident. It might even be the result of excessive stress that causes the muscles to tense up. The minor sprains can be treated on our own by applying home remedies for stiff neck. But the injuries and severe sprains need to be consulted with a doctor.
Whiplash is very dangerous and can often lead to serious injuries if proper safety or treatment is not provided. It is often experienced during car crashes which causes the head to jerk forward and backward.
Whiplash can cause an injury to the ligaments, muscles, bones and nerves in the neck or sometimes all of these too. Whiplash can cause symptoms like headaches, dizziness, back or shoulder pain, a pricking or burning feeling at the back, memory loss or even trouble with concentration. Hence, during a whiplash it is best to visit the hospital in case of any serious neck or other injuries.
Arthritis or joint inflammation in the neck can also be a cause of pain or stiffness in the neck. This can usually be relieved by taking proper rest. However, the pain may worsen if a person stays in one position for too long, like driving or sitting in front of a computer. The symptoms of arthritis can be numbness in hands or arms, headaches, balance problems or trouble with walking or weakness in both limbs. Arthritis is probably determined by certain tests like MRI, blood tests or X-ray.
Stiff neck because of meningitis can be a serious issue. Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges that are covering the brain and spinal cord. It may be a bacteria, virus or fungi that is causing meningitis. Viral meningitis may recover on its own but bacterial meningitis and fungal meningitis can be fatal.
Some symptoms of meningitis are fever, headache, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion, irritability and inability to wake up. If you experience any or all of these symptoms, you might want to rush to the hospital and get the ideal treatment for it.
Home Remedies For Stiff Neck
Apply Ice or Heat Pack
For most of the body pain, applying ice or heat works like magic. For the first 48 to 72 hours, you can apply the ice pack to the affected area. After that, heat can be applied. Ice packs can reduce swelling and inflammation. It also has a slight numbing effect which temporarily relieves the pain.
You can heat the area of pain with hot showers, hot compresses or heating pads. But make sure not to fall asleep with these heating or icing tools on, it might add on to more skin injuries. Heat packs or hot showers can help to relieve the stress and relax the tense muscles. These two methods are the best natural remedies for a stiff neck.
Over-the-counter pills can be an option if the pain is unbearable and ice, heat or both methods don’t work. You can buy some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) from a nearby drugstore to ease your sprain.
Some recommended pain relievers are ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen that can be used temporarily. If you have any other medical conditions or are taking other medications too, you are advised to consult a doctor before consuming any pills or medications.
Stretching is very important to prevent and relieve stiff muscles. You should stretch as much as possible by your body and not overdo it. The stretches need not be too rough or difficult and would be enough if exercises can be done during regular routines.
Some slow stretching exercises can be the best home remedy for a stiff neck. You can do exercises like moving your head slowly from side to side, up and down, ear to ear, etc., so that it can help to stretch the muscles.
Massages are always the best options when it comes to pain. A good massage through a therapist or a partner can be an effective home remedy for stiff neck. You can ask a loved one to massage your area of pain even at home. It is advised that, however, the massage movements should be towards the heart. This synchronizes with the blood flow in the veins. If there is too much pressure going in the wrong direction, that is away from the heart, then it can potentially damage a valve. Hence, it is necessary to massage in the right direction so as to relieve pain and your muscles.
Although stress cannot be completely eliminated, it is possible to reduce the amount of stress through stress management. Stress can be a source of many health issues and should be avoided as much as possible. If you have a high level of chronic stress, consulting a therapist or a doctor would be the best option. Talking to your doctor can help you relieve your stress as well as get some tips to manage the stress. This can be a very effective home remedy for stiff neck without having to do much.
Apart from slow stretching, low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking can be very helpful in relaxing your muscles. Even if the exercises may not be related to the neck, they can help to supply oxygen to the soft tissues in the spine and promote faster healing. It may be harmful to do vigorous activities or exercises, so it is better to do these light exercises. It will also help you calm your symptoms and reduce the inflammation around the neck.
Improving your posture is the best remedy for stiff neck. A wrong posture is one of the major reasons for a stiff neck. So, correcting the wrong posture can help you to relieve some pain and even avoid such strains the next time.
You can for example, sit up straight while sitting or driving, use your legs to lift very heavy items instead of shoulders and arms, keep the posture correct according to how you sleep, or even when you do different exercises. Make sure to keep your posture correct. Minding your posture throughout the day can help align the spinal cord and reduce the amount of stress on the neck.
Sleeping positions, postures and beddings also are a cause for stiff necks. All these should be noted and the correct postures and mattresses should be used for better posture and health.
If the mattress is too stiff or not supportive enough, it can cause pain. Even if the pillow is of improper size, it can lead to a stiff neck. The neck, head and back should be aligned while sleeping so the correct pillow for particular positions is to be used. If you sleep on your side, a big and firm pillow is good, while back sleepers need a flatter pillow so that the head is not pushed forward.
It is important to not only note but also implement these practices like exercises, postures and sleeping habits into our daily life even if we do not have a stiff neck. This could highly improve the body postures and keep muscles stress-free. The pain relievers can ease the pain but it is always better to avoid such situations than to solve them.
The next time you drive or move the furniture around the house and experience a stiff neck, you can try and utilize these natural home remedies for stiff neck to treat it on your own. But, if the pain does not ease even after pain relievers or other remedies, then it would be better to visit the doctor.