We’re not trying to start a debate, but literal pains in the neck are worse than the figurative ones. We’d go to the mat on that one. Whether or not that’s an unpopular opinion, we regularly see people who can’t do what they love because of neck pain. A common stiff neck can even be enough to interrupt daily life for anyone.
While we usually discuss more intensive neck injuries and serious conditions, this article shares common causes of stiff necks and what you can do when you have the misfortune of getting one.
Muscles tend to be the culprit with a sore neck. They can be overused, stretched or strained.
- Minor sprains and strains: stress, falling, poor sleeping position, or bad posture
- Whiplash: car accidents, sports injury, or a fall
- Arthritis: exacerbated by sitting in the same position for long periods of time
- Meningitis: rarer but potentially life-threatening, caused by virus, bacteria or fungi
The resulting pain ranges the spectrum from mild to severe — and often even leading to other aches and pains.
- Prickling/burning sensation
- Memory loss/trouble concentrating
- Numbness/weakness in arms/hands
- Trouble walking
- Balance problems
- In cases of meningitis: sudden fever, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, confusion/irritability, and inability to wake up (seek medical attention immediately if you experience these symptoms)
- Be careful with bags as a heavy one (purse, groceries, briefcases, etc.) can cause strain
- Engage in stress-relieving activities
- Exercise regularly
- Invest in a high-quality mattress and pillow that provide the correct amount of support
- Sitting or driving for long periods can test the neck. Take a break.
- Try not to look down at a device for a long time
- Use headphones to talk on the phone
- Use proper ergonomics at work
You can often treat a stiff neck in the comfort of your own home. Depending on the cause, the following could alleviate symptoms:
- Ice for swelling reduction and to numb pain. Keep it on for up to 20 minutes and then off for 30 minutes.
- Heat can help relax tense muscles, providing relief
- Over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory drugs can be you (and your neck’s) best friend. Check with your pharmacist on which could help you the most.
- Stretching your muscles slowing and gently can sometimes give the pain a rest.
- Watch what you do when you sleep and when you sit because poor posture/positions during either can lead to neck pain
- See a dentist if you suspect teeth grinding, which is usually indicated by headache or jaw pain
- Get massage therapy from a licensed professional to relieve tense and sore muscles
- Manage your stress which is a major cause of neck and back tension