Having a stiff neck? How to treat it

By Steven (Xuelong) Qin, Clinic Director, Advanced Physio Care
4-minute read

If you are having difficulty moving your neck, especially when trying to turn your head to the side, you probably are suffering from a bout of stiff neck which could last anywhere from a day or two to even weeks.

Most of us have probably experienced a stiff neck multiple times throughout the years. It could develop suddenly one morning or later in the day after some strenuous activity or even by the simply act of just turning your neck and looking around. Coupled with the fact that most of us today work office jobs that are sedentary, a stiff neck is getting more and more commonplace in our lives and has to be solved!

But before we can treat it, perhaps we can prevent it by understanding the causes of stiff neck and why we might end up with agonising pain that is a major inconvenience in our lives.

The common causes of a stiff neck

The most common cause of a stiff neck is a muscle strain or soft tissue sprain. These kind of injuries can occur from everyday activities such as:

  • Sleeping with your neck at an awkward position (sleeping on your front with your neck placed awkwardly).
  • Sudden impact through accidents or injuries such as falls or in sporting activities.
  • Turning your head side to side repeatedly without any rest (such as swimming freestyle).
  • Slouching with poor posture while handling computer work during in your office job.
  • Utilising your neck in abnormal positions such as cradling your phone between your neck and shoulder (while your hands handle something else).
  • General excessive stress or anxiety that leads to neck tension.

While the symptoms of a stiff neck are rather obvious, they can range from intensity, ranging anywhere from an annoying discomfort to extremely pain and sharps that limits your whole body’s mobility. Here’s an article on how to manage your life to reduce the risk of stiff neck or neck pain.

If you try to turn your neck and it results in so much pain that you have to stop, you are suffering from a stiff neck. These pains can range from a minor annoyance to persistent pain that can totally shut down your mobility and turn a pleasant day to a painful one.

Self-care and stiff neck treatment

While the treatment for a stiff neck is best left to a physiotherapist, there are some common self-care strategies that we can take before a trip to the physiotherapy clinic.

Treatment #1: Rest

Perhaps the most understated method, resting for a day or two will allow your body to heal the injured tissues which will in turn help relieve stiffness, muscle spasms and pain you might be feeling.

Taking a day off work of resting during the weekends at home is very beneficial. Not only will you avoid the common pitfalls of bad posture, there will be less instances of using your neck in day-to-day activities that include computer work, driving and even taking public transportation.

Treatment #2: Hot and cold therapy

Using ice packs during the first 24-48 hours is a great way to help relieve most types of neck stiffness. This is done by reducing local inflammation.

Heat therapy is also a viable option that can spur blood flow to the affected areas that can promote a better healing environment, allowing a faster recovery. While both heat and cold therapy works and can be used alternately, you might be more comfortable (and it’s much easier) sticking to the therapy that you prefer.

Treatment #3: Gentle stretching

As soon as you are able to, conduct some gentle stretching to help ease the stiffness and restore your neck to a more natural range of motion. For the best practices and effects, it is best these stretching is done with the guidance of a physiotherapist.

What next?

Looking for expert care and a physiotherapist in Singapore to relieve your neck pain and banish away that stiff neck? Come down to our physiotherapy clinic in the heart of Singapore’s business district and let our physiotherapists relieve any strain and pain you might have and restore function and mobility back to your neck. You can also book a 20-minute video consultation call with me for just $1 a minute.

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