Why you get a stiff neck in the mornings, and how to fix it

Man relaxing comfort getting neck back massage
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Is there anything more uncomfortable and inconvenient than waking up with a stiff neck? It gives you a newfound appreciation for how much your head is actually required to move. Oh, you want to put on your socks? Not gonna happen. Need to look both ways before crossing the street? Let’s just add a dash of searing pain to that.

Neck pain or stiffness in the mornings is usually the result of some muscle strain or sprain caused by sleeping in some unnatural, contorted position. If it’s a persistent problem, it could be down to other contributing factors like sports injuries, poor posture and spine disorders, excessive stress or even bacterial infections like meningitis. Here are some ways to deal with it:

Note: I am not a doctor, and this article is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you’re experiencing persistent or severe neck pain, consult your physician immediately.

1. Stretching

Tight muscles can often be released with gentle stretching. In fact, this is good practice whether you wake up with a stiff neck or not. Look up, down, left and right, and roll your head from side to side gently until you feel a slight stretch in the muscles. Hold for a few seconds and then repeat until it feels loose.

2. Massage

You can also knead away the knot by giving your neck the hands-on treatment. It’s best to have a professional masseur/masseuse or physiotherapist do this, but you can also attempt it yourself. Find the sore spot and push your fingers into the muscle. Now tilt your head in the opposite direction to activate the muscle under pressure. Repeat as necessary, and stretch to finish.

3. Heat/Ice

Hot and cold temperatures can help a stiff neck, if you know when to use them. In general, ice is best used when the injury first occurs to reduce inflammation and swelling. Heat can be used later to draw blood flow to the site, which will promote healing. You can also try bathing in Epsom salt, which is great for relieving muscle aches and pains.

4. Medication

There are plenty of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) available both on prescription and over-the-counter that can help reduce muscle inflammation and loosen up your neck. The most common types of NSAIDs are ibuprofen and naproxen, so look for products containing those compounds. Just be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist about possible side effects.

5. Exercise

While it’s best to avoid any kind of strenuous exercise while your neck is strained, gentle activities like walking and water aerobics can be beneficial. These low-impact activities don’t recruit your neck muscles directly, but they help get blood flowing throughout your spine and into your neck muscles, which accelerates the healing process.

6. Sleep Position

They say prevention is better than cure, so pay attention to how you sleep at night. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this can result in your head being twisted to one side for hours on end and can also lead to lower back pain. Practice sleeping on your back or side instead.

Q: How do you deal with a stiff neck when you wake up? Let us know in the comments below.

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