Causes of a Stiff Neck & How to Naturally Treat It

After a full day's events, you fall into bed and go to sleep before your head even hits the pillow. The next morning, you wake up, and you can hardly move your neck. Does that sound familiar? It happens to almost everyone at some point or another. Men, women, and even children have complained about the problem. A stiff neck is something that is reasonably common, and as long as it's not a chronic issue, there's nothing to worry about from a medical standpoint. However, it can be extremely uncomfortable and even keep you from doing your regular daily activities if it's severe enough.

The question is, where did the stiff neck come from, and how can you get rid of it quickly? You just want to be normal again, and you don't want to wait for nature to take its course. That could take days or even weeks. Find out why you may be suffering from a stiff neck and what stiff neck treatment might work in your individual situation.

What Are Common Stiff Neck Causes?

There are a plethora of reasons why people get a stiff neck. It could be something as simple as sleeping in an awkward angle for the night. Those kinds of issues will usually resolve themselves in a couple of hours with a little self-massage. Here are a few other causes of a stiff neck that might require a bit more attention:

  • Sitting at a computer for extended periods of time
  • Straining during exercise
  • Falls
  • Accidents
  • Poor posture
  • Housework
  • Landscaping or other outdoor activities

Any of these can cause tension or strain that is going to result in discomfort. It can happen in any part of the neck or surrounding areas including:

  • Nerves
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Joints
  • Jaw
  • Head
  • Upper arms
  • Shoulder

If you are having trouble with your neck, there's a good chance that you can pick something out of those two lists and combine them as the culprit. Now that you have identified why you are in so much pain, it's time to figure out how to take care of it... the natural way.

5 Natural Stiff Neck Treatment Options

Before you start looking into doing your own natural treatment for a stiff neck problem, you want to be sure that there are no underlying medical concerns. In most instances, there aren't. You don't want to harm yourself further though by doing something that could cause more damage. As a general rule, if your pain doesn't go away in a week, you should visit a medical doctor for a professional opinion.

Visiting a Chiropractor for Stiff Neck Treatment

One study was done on how chiropractic treatment helped with acute neck pain problems. There was a baseline report done at week one and then a final report completed after 26 weeks of regular treatment. The results showed that at the final evaluation, the average pain intensity in patients was cut almost in half. There were no serious reactions to the treatment and only a few people reported minor unwanted side effects.

Setting up an appointment with a chiropractor for stiff neck pain can help you get on the road to recovery faster. However, regular visits can prevent these kinds of problems from ever occurring, especially if your neck pain is from poor posture. Your chiropractor will work through manipulations and adjustments of the spine to ensure that your body stays in proper alignment. What may seem to be a minor part of your spine out of place can wreak havoc on the neck as well as the rest of the body. Prevention is always the best treatment option.

Stretches that are Effective Stiff Neck Exercises

When something is stiff, you generally want to loosen it back up. To do that, you move it around. The idea of moving your neck around when it's already hurting might make you wince. It doesn't have to be a bad thing though. Doing the right kind of stretching is key to getting relief without causing further pain.

Move your ear down to your shoulder slowly ten times on one side, then repeat on the other.

Put your hands or chair behind your head and push into holding for 30 seconds

Lift and squeeze your shoulder blades and release; repeat ten times

Move your shoulders backward and down in a rolling motion; repeat ten times

Stiff Neck Massage Treatment

You don't have to go out and pay the big bucks to get a massage unless of course, you want to. Instead, you can have your partner, a family member, or even your child do a gentle massage around where the pain is. Just a few minutes of attention to the sore region is going to make a difference. It may have to be repeated every couple of hours until the problem goes away.

If you don't have someone to massage your neck for you, you can do it yourself.

  1. Locate the trigger point or painful area
  2. Place fingertips on that spot
  3. Apply pressure or gently rub for a few moments (start with minimum pressure then you can get more aggressive depending on how it feels)
  4. Repeat two to six times a day

It's important to keep your body moving, but don't make any sudden jerking motions or do any sort of strenuous exercise. Massage does the movement you need to reduce inflammation and reduce your pain symptoms.

Rotate Hot and Cold Compresses

There is a bit of debate when it comes to using hot and cold compresses for pain. There have been studies done to show that heat helps improve the blood flow in the area where it is applied. That alone could aid in pain relief.

Psychologically, cold treatment seems to have helped with reducing:

  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle spasms
  • Blood flow
  • Edema
  • Metabolic demand

Some experts suggest to start with cold compresses during the first 24 to 72 hours and then switch to hot. Others say to do it the other way around. In the end, it's going to come down to what works for you and what makes you most comfortable.

Neither option is going to be harmful to you as long as you don't fall asleep with a heating pad or bag of ice on your neck. You may have to experiment with the hot and cold rotation a few times before you decide which option is suited for you.

Simply Sleep Better

The way you sleep is going to have a profound effect on your neck and how it feels in the morning. If you sleep on your stomach, you are more likely to lay one way or the other for extended periods of time putting pressure on that area. That's how you get the stiff neck on one side. To avoid that, sleep on your back or on your side if you have to.

Other tips for better sleep include:

  • Get a firm mattress
  • Purchase a custom sleeping pillow
  • Sleep without a pillow
  • Put your pillow under your knees
  • Use shoulder support
  • Sleep on an incline

It's also essential that when you are sleeping, you get quality sleep. It might not seem important, but researchers have proven that those that don't get good enough rest are more likely to suffer from pain problems. Start a relaxation routine before bed, turn off the electronics, keep your room dark, and try to get at least six to eight hours every night.

Author Bio

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor's of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998.

He became passionate about being a chiropractor after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.

Dr. Wells is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians.

Works Cited

(n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2018, from

Haneline, M. T., & Cooperstein, R. (2009, December 8). Chiropractic care for patients with acute neck pain: results of a pragmatic practice-based feasibility study. Retrieved August 3, 2018, from US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:

Malanga, G., Yan, N., & Stark, J. (2014, December 15). Mechanisms and efficacy of heat and cold therapies for musculoskeletal injury. Retrieved August 3, 2018, from US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health:

Neck Injuries and Disorders. (2017, January 3). Retrieved August 3, 2018, from MedlinePlus:

Neck Pain: Overview. (2015, December 17). Retrieved August 3, 2018, from PubMed Health:

Say “good night” to neck pain. (n.d.). Retrieved August 3, 2018, from Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School:

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