3 Cures for a Stiff Neck

Posted by Lucy Jones on

When it comes to neck stiffness, finding an effective cure can end a lot of pain and suffering. Not only does neck stiffness limit your mobility and ability to live your life, but neck stiffness can cause imbalances in other areas of the body due to improper alignment.

So it’s extremely important to work towards ending neck stiffness when you have it and to take preventative measures to stop the pain from coming back. The truth is that some methods of relieving neck stiffness and inflammation are a lot more effective than others.

Of course, everyone is different and everyone’s neck stiffness is caused by different factors, but there are some things that are generally effective for most people. And then there are a few things that are almost universally effective.

Today, you’ll learn those universally effective remedies. Along with three great cures for a stiff neck, in this article, you'll learn some of the causes of neck stiffness and how to prevent neck stiffness from coming back.

What Causes a Stiff Neck

When trying to find relief for your neck stiffness, it’s generally helpful to get an idea of what caused it in the first place. In most cases, there will be a few different causes, but one may stand out as the main culprit.


There are a few common sleep-related reasons for neck stiffness. One of these that you may have experienced is from sleeping in certain positions that can strain your neck.

Sometimes this can happen from snoring or sleep apnea which makes you tilt your head to get more air into your lungs.
Other times it can be caused by an inadequate pillow or just the way you happened to roll over. It’s important to get a high-quality pillow and sleep on your back or side. We’ll talk more about how to prevent neck stiffness after sleeping below.

Muscle Strain or Sprain

Because your neck is vulnerable and connected to so many muscles in your body, it can easily be affected by strains and sprains.

For example, there are muscles that connect your shoulder to your cervical spine. According to Wikipedia, your cervical spinal cord (or cervical vertebrae), “are the vertebrae of your neck, immediately below the skull.”

If these muscles that connect your shoulder to your cervical spine become strained or sprained, it can give you a stiff or sore neck.

Strains can be caused by sleeping without proper support, but they can also be caused by a repetitive activity that involves turning the head to one side while swimming for example.

Other causes of muscle strain or sprain include poor posture and tension knots from stress. Poor posture can be aggravated by gazing down on a phone or computer or sitting with improper posture.

If your stiff neck is caused by stress, you may also notice tension in other parts of your body, such as your shoulders or jaw. A clenched jaw is a sure sign that you’re holding onto stress and tension in your neck.

Medical Conditions

Certain conditions and disorders can cause or aggravate neck stiffness. Some of these are acute, while others are chronic underlying health conditions.

For example, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are both chronic health conditions that can cause stiffness in the neck. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear on the joints, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder.

An example of an acute cause of neck stiffness is a herniated disk caused by an injury. Injuries can also cause pinched nerves and muscle spasms.

Surprisingly, a stiff neck can also be caused by some forms of infection. For example, a meningitis infection. Meningitis is a very dangerous infection that should be treated immediately.

However, most of the time a stiff neck is caused by an infection, it will be a symptom of a cold or the flu.

The Cures

The good thing about a stiff or sore neck is that they usually heal quickly if you allow your body the time to recover and implement some of the suggestions below.

Necks usually heal quickly because of the strength of the cervical vertebrae. At the same time, you demand a lot of your neck, so be sure to give it everything it needs to heal properly. Chronic neck conditions can cause lots of pain and discomfort later on in life.

Cure #1 Heat and Cold Treatment

If you’ve ever taken a jacuzzi with sore muscles, you’ll know that the heat provides pain relief. This is because the heat relaxes your muscles and stimulates your circulation. With more blood and oxygen, the muscles begin to recover and feel better.

You don’t have to have a jacuzzi to get relief, however. You can provide an at-home heat treatment to your neck in a few ways.

You can have a “mini-jacuzzi” and pour yourself a hot bath. If you do this, add some soothing essential oils to the bath water to further your relaxation.

You can also get a heating pad designed to warm and soothe muscles. Many times, these will be electric that you can plug into the wall.

In addition to heating, you can try icing your neck. It may sound strange that both heat and cold can help relieve chronic pain, but cold helps your neck in a few ways.

While a jacuzzi allows your blood to flow more easily because of the warmth, ice makes your blood vessels go deeper into the body to stay warm and your blood flow to slow down.

This decreases cell metabolism and can prevent cell death. Ice also has anti-inflammatory effects, which will help aid any symptoms of swelling and discomfort.

It’s best to ice right away when you get a neck injury to reduce inflammation. You can ice for around 20 minutes or until you start to feel numb. Take an hour break before icing again.

Cure #2 Get a Massage

If you’ve been meaning to spoil yourself with a massage, a stiff neck may be the perfect excuse. A massage will definitely help if the reason for your neck stiffness is tension from stress.

Because the relaxation element is so important, choose a certified massage therapist that you trust and feel comfortable with. Many professional massage therapists will play calming music and burn incense or essential oils.

In addition to allowing you to relax, which will allow your muscles to become less constricted, massage therapy also stimulates the circulation of blood and lymph. Lymph is a type of fluid produced by the body that aids in fighting disease and removing toxins.

This is also an opportunity for the massage therapist to manually move your muscles and joints, and target any trigger points. Sometimes, this can allow for muscles to find a more relaxed resting position.

There are many different types of massage, and when done by a trained professional, they can all be effective. It’s important to choose a type of massage that feels good to you.

For example, some people like their massages firm and deep. While others may want light touch on the surface of their skin. Be sure to ask your massage therapist to cater the massage to your needs.

Swedish Massage

The standard massage you’ll see in most clinics and spas is the Swedish massage. This massage typically consists of broad general strokes before transitioning into smaller, deeper strokes in areas that are tighter or more constricted.

Hot Stone Massage

Another type of massage is a hot stone massage. This is great if you want to combine getting a massage with a heat-based treatment.

In a hot stone massage, your massage therapist will heat stones and use them during the massage. They will then either place the stones along your back or hold the stones in their hand as they massage you.

The stones are very smooth and usually made of a volcanic rock that holds heat very well. As in the heat treatment above, the warm stones relax and loosen the muscle so that the massage therapist can reach deeper areas of tension and access trigger points that are potentially causing your chronic neck pain.

Deep Tissue Massage

A deep tissue massage is great for those who love firm massages. While a swedish massage requires broad and light strokes, a deep tissue massage applies pressure to chronically tight areas and tension in the deepest layers of tissue.

Though it may be slightly uncomfortable, it doesn’t have to be painful, so be sure to tell your massage therapist if any pain arises.

A deep tissue massage can be especially helpful if you have chronic postural issues. This is because a deep tissue massage can help to relieve some of the underlying muscular problems associated with bad posture.

Eastern Massage

Though eastern or Asian-style massages vary greatly, there is a key difference between eastern and western massage therapy.

While western massages, such as deep tissue or swedish, are based on western concepts of the body, eastern massages are based on an energetic understanding of the body. This can be seen in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine from ancient India.

Massages from the Asian countries, shiatsu massage for example, often work by stimulating points on the body that improve the flow of “chi” or life force energy.

Another type of Asian massage is Thai massage, in which the massage therapist will move your body into yoga-like positions. It’s much more active than other types of massages and, like shiatsu, is based on realigning your body’s energies.

Cure # 3 Cervical Traction

Cervical traction is an extremely popular and effective cure for neck stiffness and one you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home.

Cervical traction gently lifts your head away from your neck, creating a “distracting force” and reducing neck compression. This “distracting force” essentially lifts your head into a position that allows your neck to relax.

This relaxation along with the gentle upward force realigns your neck and decreases stiffness, soreness, and muscle imbalances.

Cervical traction is known to be extremely effective and fast-acting, making it perfect whether your neck stiffness is acute and occasional or caused by chronic underlying issues.

Benefits of Cervical Traction

In addition to curing neck stiffness, cervical traction can also be used to help a number of other symptoms. For example, cervical traction has been used in the treatment of injuries and  herniated disks.

Cervical traction can also help you find a better, more aligned posture. And there’s science to back up the effectiveness of cervical traction.

A 2017 study analyzed the effectiveness of cervical traction in relieving neck pain and found, “that the treatment significantly reduced neck pain immediately following treatment.”

Neck pain was also reduced when participants were tested later during a follow-up period.  

How to do Cervical Traction

Cervical traction can be done a few ways. First, you can go to a trained physical therapist and get manual cervical traction.

During manual cervical traction, you will lie flat on your back. The therapist will then gently pull your head from your neck with their hands.

Depending on your condition, they may hold this for an extended period before releasing the pressure.

Another way to have cervical traction that’s a lot easier than seeing a physical therapist is to use an at-home cervical traction harness.

These portable harnesses allow you to enjoy cervical traction when you need it, right from your bedroom or living room.

For example, the Neck Hammock is designed to attach to a post, pole, or doorknob, and can easily be used either at home or on the go.

The Neck Hammock is made with therapeutic and medical grade equipment and has comfortable foam that wraps around the contours of your head.

It’s sleek and stylish design along with its matching eye mask means you get to relax in style.

Preventing a Stiff Neck

Of course, better than curing a stiff neck is preventing it from appearing in the first place. Cervical traction, in addition to being a great cure for neck stiffness, is a great preventative measure as well.

Because the Neck Hammock is so easy to use, you can use it every day to get a bit of relaxation and prevent your stiff neck from coming back.

Other options to curing stiff necks include stretching and exercise.

If your neck stiffness just isn’t seeming to go away, read more about when to see a doctor.