Dealing with a Stiff Neck

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What can I do to help a stiff neck?

Dealing with a Stiff Neck

A stiff neck can be a real pain. On some mornings, you might wake up with it feeling that way as a result of sleeping in a strange position, or perhaps you're noticing a progressing tightness. Either way, getting relief from your neck pain symptoms and improving mobility may be easily achieved through the use of ice, heat, medication, and the right type of exercises. Assuming you are not experiencing any tingling or radiating symptoms in your arms and that you have no sharp or stabbing pain when you try moving your head from side to side, actively moving the muscles that hold your head in place and connect your head and shoulders may bring blessed relief.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Shoulder squeezes: This can be done while sitting, standing, or even while you're waiting at a red light in the car. Simply squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold that position for 5 seconds or so, then relax. Repeat this 10 times, and do it several times a day if possible.
  • Shrugs: Lift your shoulders to your ears, pause for several seconds, and then release. You can also roll your shoulders up, back and down in a circular motion. Do this 15 or 20 times, one or two times a day.
  • Seated row: While sitting in a chair or on the floor, reach your arms straight out in front of you. Then pull back, like you're rowing a boat, and tighten the muscles between the shoulder blades. Repeat this motion 10 or 20 times. Light resistance from an elastic band can make this more beneficial.
  • Lateral neck stretch: While sitting up straight, gently tilt your head to one side, so the ear goes toward the shoulder, stopping at the point of tension. You can also press your head down gently with your hand for a better stretch. Hold for at least 30 seconds, then slowly release. Repeat on the other side, and do this 2 or 3 times each way.
If you feel a hard restriction with any of these movements, or radiating symptoms begin to appear in your arm or hand, stop. You may have something going on other than a stiff neck and it would be wise to consult a clinician in your area, who can be found using the free clinician-locator tool on



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