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5 Ways to Treat a Stiff Neck

author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
5 Ways to Treat a Stiff Neck
Don't let neck pain slow you down. Photo Credit: Milkos/iStock/GettyImages

Neck stiffness can make simple tasks such as washing your hair and driving more difficult. It can also lead to headaches and pain in your neck, upper back or shoulders. Treat your neck stiffness with heat, trigger point release and exercises.

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Read more: What Does a Stiff Neck Indicate?

1. Heat

Applying heat to your neck increases blood flow to your muscles, helping them relax. Make your own hot pack with a tube sock and some rice.

HOW TO DO IT: Pour rice into the sock, leaving enough room to knot the end. Microwave the sock on high for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, until the sock is hot. Time will vary by machine.

Place a towel around the sock and wrap it around the back of your neck. Use for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the socks cools off. Use additional layers of towel as needed to prevent burns.

2. Trigger Point Release

Neck stiffness caused by muscle spasms can be treated with a simple tennis ball.

HOW TO DO IT: Find a tight area or knot in your neck muscle. Lie on the floor and place the tennis ball on the tight area. Relax into this position for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat three times.

3. Sit Up Straight

Poor posture increases stress on your neck, which can cause or worsen neck stiffness. Set up your work space to improve your posture.

HOW TO DO IT: Sit up straight and adjust the height of your chair until your elbows are bent to 90 degrees or less. Adjust the height of your computer screen to slightly below eye level. Use a document reader to reduce strain on your neck muscles.

Rest your feet flat on the floor to reduce strain on your lower back. Use a footstool if needed.

4. Move Your Neck Gently

Range of motion exercises increase blood flow and decrease stiffness. Perform each movement 10 times. Move slowly and stop when you feel a gentle stretch, without pain.

HOW TO DO IT: Sit up straight. Bring your chin down to your chest, then return to the starting position. Rotate your head to the right and left as far as possible. Drop your right ear to your right shoulder. Repeat on the left.

5. Get Stronger

Strengthening muscles deep in your neck can improve posture and help prevent stiffness.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie on the floor. Nod your head slightly as if you are lengthening the muscles on the back of your neck. You should feel the muscles under your chin tighten.

Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times, working up to three sets in a row.

Read more: Facts on Stiff Neck

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