How to Treat a Stiff Neck: Home Remedies That Actually Work

At any given time, an estimated 39 per cent of people over 65 have stiffness, soreness or swelling in their necks. Here's expert advice on how to manage the discomfort, and ultimately, get rid of a stiff neck.

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woman suffering stiff neck
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What causes a stiff neck?

Neck pain is a widespread complaint in the information age, with many of us spending a great deal of time hunched over a computer, tablet or phone, or slouching in front of the TV. It’s also a prevalent ailment of aging, due to cumulative wear and tear on the spine’s joints and tissues. Assuming an injury or underlying disease isn’t causing the condition, here are some tips for managing the discomfort, as well as the best stiff neck remedies.

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man sleeping
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Sleep off a stiff neck

If you’re looking for stiff neck relief, getting a good night’s sleep—which represents roughly a third of your day—is a good place to start. Choose a relatively firm mattress and use only enough pillows to keep your head level with the rest of your body—one is usually sufficient. For slumber that is even more neck-friendly, try lying on your back with pillow support under your knees. This will flatten and relax your spinal muscles.

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Stiff neck remedies - posture at work
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Make your workstation easier on your neck

When it comes to computer use, make sure the monitor is at arm’s length and eye level. Laptops have poor posture built into their designs: if the keyboard is near enough to be comfortable, then the screen is too close, and if the screen is positioned correctly, the keyboard is too far away, forcing you to hunch. You can solve this problem by placing the device on a stack of large books or a laptop stand and using a separate keyboard and mouse.

Here’s more expert advice on relieving everyday aches and pains.

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Stiff neck relief - senior woman doing stretches at morning
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Fight neck stiffness with physical activity

There is evidence to suggest home exercises may be effective against short-term neck discomfort (lasting for 12 weeks or less). A physiotherapist, whom you can consult without a doctor’s referral, can tell you which types of manoeuvres would be most appropriate for your specific situation. “There are many possible reasons for neck pain, including stress, poor posture and vertebral degeneration,” explains Dr. Michael Westaway, a musculoskeletal clinical specialist in Calgary. “A physical therapist will determine the problem. Treatment is often multimodal and may include an exercise program.”

For chronic and severe cases, there are painkillers, steroid injections and surgery. However, resist the urge to immediately take aggressive measures, since simpler steps will often ease this everyday affliction.

Now that you know how to find stiff neck relief, check out 20 symptoms you should never ignore.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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