Imagine this scenario: you wake up from a restless sleep, and your neck hurts. It lessens a little during the day but is still a nagging ache.
Muscle tension in the neck is a common problem. Most people have experienced tightness in the neck at some point in their lives. Neck pain arises from the tendons and muscles around the neck and upper part of the spine.
The causes are of tightness in the neck are many, but could be age or injury related. Other times, it could just be the way you’re sleeping or muscle strain. Either way, here are ten ways to prevent tightness in the neck for a reliefMinor stiffness and tension can be relieved by 15 to 20 minutes of heat. If your pain is more moderate or severe, longer sessions, from 30 minutes to two hours, can be helpful.
What Causes Tightness in the Neck?
Tightness in the neck can have numerous causes, and sometimes it is hard to know exactly what causes it. There are minor causes such as aging, and there are more serious causes such as an injury. Here are a few common causes of tightness in the neck.
Age and Worn Joints
As you age, your muscles and joints weaken. This can come on slowly or more quickly, but it is not unusual to notice tightness in the neck as you age. This cause is inevitable as we all age, but there are some ways to lessen or eliminate tightness in the neck due to aging and worn joints.
If you have had a car accident or some other type of sports or exercise injury that has affected your neck and shoulders, you may have continuous tightness in the neck. Injuries are a common culprit of neck pain.
Another very common cause of tightness in the neck is poor posture. If you slump forward (especially while in front of a computer or while driving), you are putting tension on your neck muscles, thus causing tightness.
The way you sleep could be affecting your neck muscles. If you sleep on your stomach, you are putting your spine in a position to cause pressure on your neck. You may also need to make sure you are using a good pillow that alleviates neck pain.
If you work a job where you have to use repetitive movements, you may notice tightness in the neck.
The Computer and Phone
Think about how much time you spend on the computer. When you are looking at the computer frequently, you are holding your neck up and may be causing strain. Also, if you are always looking down at your phone to check messages, you are putting your neck out of alignment and probably causing some strain.
Stress affects the entire body, and often, people underestimate the power of stress. Stress can affect your muscles, including your neck.
As you can see, there are many causes of neck pain. Some are more serious than others, but there are ways to alleviate pain or prevent tightness in the neck. Keep reading for some ways to prevent tightness in the neck.
Ten Ways to Prevent Tightness in the Neck
1. Sleep on Your Side or Your Back
These are the two best sleep positions for neck tightness. When you sleep on your back or your side, you are putting your spine in a neutral position. Sleeping on your stomach is hard on your spine because your neck is turned to one side, which causes stiffness in the neck. It may be hard to change your sleeping position if you are used to sleeping on your stomach, but with practice, it can be done.
2. Try a New Pillow
As far as pillows go, try to find one that helps keep your spine in a neutral position. Find one that is comfortable for you. Some people like a harder pillow, and others like softer ones, but the type of pillow doesn’t matter as long as it is comfortable for you and takes pressure off your neck.
3. Keep your Computer at Eye Level
If you’re like most people, you spend a lot of time sitting at the computer, especially if you have a desk job during the day. Keeping your computer at eye level helps avoid straining the neck.
Try this technique to evaluate your computer posture: Sit in front of your computer and close your eyes. Now open them. Your eyes should see the middle of your computer. You should not be straining to see the computer. Adjust your seat if you need to, or adjust your computer monitor so that your gaze hits the middle of the computer screen.
4. Minimize Texting Time
We spend a lot of times on our phones. Constantly looking down at your phone to text or receive texts causes tightness in the neck. While it may seem awkward at first, try to hold your phone to eye level to text and receive texts. That way you aren’t causing strain in the neck.
5. Stretch and Exercise Your Neck
Your neck contains ligaments, tendons, and muscles, and it needs to be stretched and exercised often. One way to stretch your neck is to roll it from side to side several times. Hold it for five seconds and then roll it to the other side.
Another stretch is the chin tuck exercise where you place a finger on your chin and pull the chin down as far as it can go. Hold the stretch for 5 seconds and then bring the chin forward again.
Now, holding the finger onto your chin, stretch your neck backward as far as it can go. Hold for 5 seconds. This exercise will strengthen the muscles in the neck. Do these neck exercises every day to alleviate tension in the neck.
6. Carry Your Weight Evenly
If you carry a heavy purse and sling it over one shoulder, consider switching to a light backpack. When you carry weight on one shoulder but not the other, you care to carry your weight unevenly which can lead to tightness in the neck. Instead, switch to a backpack which will evenly distribute the weight that you carry. Try not to overstuff any bag you carry.
7. Maintain Good Posture
Poor posture can cause tightness in the neck by straining muscles and ligaments in the neck. Try to avoid the common head-and-shoulders posture where you place your head in front of your shoulders.
This causes stiffness in the neck. Instead, keep your neck in a neutral position by keeping your head and shoulders aligned. This may seem awkward at first, but practicing it will make it more second nature.
8. Get a Massage
Getting a neck massage can help alleviate neck tension. If you don’t want to pay for a massage, you can massage your neck by tilting your head forward and slowly massaging the muscles. You can tilt your head to the side and massage the side of your neck too.
9. Get Enough Exercise
Exercising for at least 30 minutes a day 3-4 times a week will strengthen your muscles, even in your neck, and keep your body in good condition. A great exercise for stretching and strengthening is yoga, which could help neck pain. Be careful of strength training exercises where you put weight on your shoulders. This could aggravate neck pain.
10. Apply Heat or Ice
Applying heat or ice can be extremely effective for relieving tightness in the neck. Generally, you will use ice for acute pain, inflammation, or swelling, and you will use heat for muscle pain or stiffness.
Heat therapy works by improving circulation and blood flow to the affected area. Consider buying a heating pad if you don’t already have one. You could also heat up towels and place them on your neck.
Cold therapy works by reducing blood flow to a specific area, which can alleviate pain and inflammation. Ice packs are the best to use in this situation.
Wrap an ice pack in a towel and place it directly onto the affected area. Keep it there for short periods of time, around ten to 15 minutes. You can use cold therapy several times a day.
As you can see, tightness in the neck is a common problem that affects nearly everyone at some point in their lives. It can be mild, or more severe, and caused by many factors, but the good news is that there are ways to alleviate neck pain. Try some of these techniques and see what works best for you.
If the tightness in your neck doesn’t go away after using some of these techniques or if your neck pain is severe, you should see your doctor. If your neck pain is accompanied by a persistent headache, nausea, or a fever, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
If you have a mild tightness in the neck, practice using these ten tips, and you should be well on your way to a stronger, healthier, pain-free neck.