According to Spine Health, stiff neck is most often a muscle strain in the back and side of the neck. It may be the result of sleeping in an awkward position, a sports injury, stress, or poor posture, especially when looking down at a computer for an extended period of time.
Stiff neck is usually painful but harmless, but it can be annoying and painful. However, when accompanied by a high fever, it is important to seek immediate medical attention, as these symptoms together point to the dangerous bacterial infection meningitis.
For a more routine stiff neck, we recommend the following home remedies:
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1. Stretch. Cleveland Clinic recommends a stretching routine that can be easily done at your desk or in your car. Begin by rolling your shoulders backwards and downwards 10 times. Next, squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times. Now, cup your hands behind your head and push you head back into your hands for a count of 30. Lastly, dip your head to the side, reaching the ear to the shoulder. Repeat 10 times on each side.
2. Sleep on your back or your side. According to Cleveland Clinic, sleeping on the stomach removes all support from the lower back and strains the neck. If you think your sleeping position is the main cause of your stiff neck, take extra care to sleep on your back or on your side. If the pain persists, you may want to ask your doctor about the benefits of a special neck pillow.
3. Castor oil massage. Earth Clinic recommends this common home remedy for pain relief. Lightly heat castor oil and massage it into your neck muscles. Ask a friend or loved one to knead the oil into the muscles around your upper spine.
4. Myofascial stretch. Begin by elongating the body and dropping the chin to the chest. Place clasped hands or a towel at the base of the neck and use the weight of your arms to gently stretch your neck, shoulder, and back muscles. Hold for 3 to 5 minutes. In the Earth Clinic video below, Myofascial Release Therapist Erica Reid explains the longer you hold the stretch, the deeper and more permanent the release.
5. 60-second self-massage. In an article for Prevention, wellness physical therapist Allyn Kakuk explains how to use only your hands to relieve a stiff neck caused by a muscle cramp. First, find the sore spot. If it is on the right side of the neck, firmly push the knot with the fingers of your left hand. You can also use a tennis ball to knead away the stiffness. Turn the head slightly in the direction opposite the cramp and bend diagonally, as if trying to touch the armpit with the chin. Repeat all steps approximately 20 times for a total of 60 seconds.
6. Cinnamon and turmeric tea. Mind Body Green says this home remedy releases muscle tension and eases inflammation.
7. Chamomile tea press. Heat damp chamomile tea bags and use them as a warm compares to relieve stiff neck. Mind Body Green says the best way to do this is to wrap wet tea bags or loose tea in an old pillow case and press the soft material directly into the muscle
8. Fresh horseradish or mustard oil. The heat from these natural ingredients work wonders against muscle stiffness. Mind Body Greenwarns leaving them on the muscles for only a few minute as so prevent numbness or burning.
9. Kinesiology Tape otherwise known as KT tape works wonders as well! (additional reading)