Neck stiffness is a something we all experience from time to time. And it can be triggered by anything from sleeping in an awkward position, to sitting too long hunched over a desk, to a small "tweak" caused by lifting something heavy off a shelf.
Neck stiffness can also be caused by regular poor posture, sports injuries and simply a lack of range of motion in the muscles and joints as we age.
So what are the natural remedies that can help heal a stiff neck?
And what are the simple steps you can take to minimise the chances of neck stiffness moving forward?
Read on to discover our top recommended tips.
1. Make Heat Your Friend
Whilst an ice pack can reduce the pain and inflammation in the short term, heat brings fresh blood flow to the area to help heal and dissipate the pain for good.
Here's three key ways you can relax the muscles and support the healing process:
- Hot Salt Baths - Soak in a hot bath infused with pure Epsom Salts and essential oils. Epsom salts reduce stress and tension in the muscles and joints due to the rich magnesium content which is a natural muscle relaxant. For convenience, our handcrafted Detox Bath Salts take all of the guess work out for you if you'd prefer not to DIY
- Infra Red Saunas - There's nothing like a sweat session in a sauna for 20-30 minutes to help release toxins from the body, boost wellbeing and to relieve sore muscles and joints at the same time. Unlike a traditional rock sauna which heats the body abruptly from the moment you enter, an infra red sauna slowly warms the body from the inside out, causing the blood vessels to relax and dilate, increasing blood flow and soothing tension and pain. Most major cities these days have studios specialising in infra red sauna treatments which you can book and visit (Google will be your best friend), or you can consider having your own infra red sauna installed at home - more information in our blog here
- Topical Remedies - certain natural oils and balms can be very effective at not only relieving pain, but also reducing inflammation and targeting the cellular area beneath the surface for healing and repair. We handcraft two natural remedies that are very effective: Golden Re-leaf Oil and Healing Chrysm Balm. Use these individually or as an amazing combination together which you can alternate. Another of our favourite recommended topical remedy balms is the dōTERRA Ice Blue Rub.
2. Gentle Stretching
Gentle stretching can help release tension stored in the muscles and joints, whilst activating blood flow to the area causing you pain.
Some simple stretches that can help neck stiffness include:
Overhead Stretch -
Stand up straight, shoulder width distance apart, looking straight ahead with your shoulders pulled back. Interlace your fingers with palms facing each other, then gently raise your clasped hands directly over head. Now tilt your head back at look up to our outstretched hands above your head. Hold for 5-10 seconds, lower your hands, then repeat three more times.
Rotating Outstretched Arms -
Again, standing up straight with your shoulders back and feet hip width distance apart, this time raise your arms out straight to the side of your torso with palms pointing flat to the ground. Now, whilst maintaining your posture, gently rotate your shoulders in a forward circular motion, making small circles at a steady tempo. Perform 20-30 circles forward, then pause and do the same making the circles in reverse. Repeat this sequence 2-3 times.
Thread The Needle -
Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and hips over your knees. Reach your right arm underneath and across your body with your palm facing up. Bend your left elbow as you gently lean into your right side. You should feel a stretch in the back of your right shoulder. Hold for one full breath, deeply inhaling then deeply exhaling out in that bottom position for around 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
The neck is highly susceptible to soreness and stiffness, as well as strains, due to its large range of motions, it’s mobility, and the crucial role that it has in supporting our heads through the whole day, day after day. Our heads are heavy, so our neck muscles work hard.
When you feel neck stiffness, it is most commonly because your neck has been held at an unnatural angle for too long, and the muscles and nerves have been overused to strained.
The first step in healing your stiff neck is identifying what caused the stiffness in the first place. Did you sleep wrong? Have you been walking hunched over? What is your posture while you work? Understanding what caused the stiffness will help you avoid the trigger- this will help speed up the healing process.
If you have found yourself with a stiff, sore neck- here is how you can heal it:
4. Healing Hands
For centuries, human touch has been recognised as one of the most powerful forms of healing because of the relaxation and healing response it creates in the brain. That's why therapeutic remedies like massage and chiropractic are so effective.
Remedial Massage - Remedial massage works to lengthen and relax muscles and tissues, making it a great choice for those suffering from neck and shoulder pain. Find a skilled professional masseuse in your local area and book a 60-90 minute massage if you're suffering neck or back pain, or as a preventative measure once per month.
Chiropractic - Chiropractic adjustments can be very effective when it comes to healing neck and back pain. Chiropractors rely on a holistic, non-invasive approach to healing to relieve tension in the musculoskeletal and nervous system to find the root cause of the pain and the best approach for treating it. Periodic chiropractic adjustments are also a very good way to prevent injuries and to maintain long term posture and spinal health. Most chiropractic adjustments are only around 15 minutes after your initial consultation. Look for a local chiropractor and maintain regular visits if you experience regular neck stiffness or pain.
4. Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Foods that are known for their anti-inflammatory powers that you should increase in your diet if you experience regular neck stiffness of pain include:
- Spices like Turmeric, Ginger Cinnamon - Add these to cooking and/or add 2-3 drops of essential oil (Turmeric, Ginger or Cinnamon) to warm water to prepare an anti-inflammatory "tea" and sip early morning and/or before bedtime;
- Onions and Garlic - reduce oxidative stress and are nature's anti-inflammatory super foods. Add them regularly to cooked meals;
- Good Fats - Eat plenty of omega 3 rich fats which protect the nerves and joints, such as extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil, flax seed oil, grass-fed butter and walnuts. Avoid hydrogenated vegetable seed oils such as canola, safflower and corn oil which are inflammatory;
- Fresh Fruits & Vegetables - Eat a wide variety of antioxidant rich fresh fruits and vegetables sourced locally and spray-free is possible.
Other Tips and Remedies
Other tips and remedies to keep in mind when it comes to reducing neck stiffness and pain include:
- Earthing - connecting your body directly with the earth with activities such as barefooted beach walks or walking on the grass in the park help stimulate the healing process due to the electrons from the earth's surface being absorbed into the body;
- Deep Breathing - intentional deep breathing is one of the best ways to reduce tension in the body and to help relieve pain. Deep breathing involves taking in long concentrated breaths into the diaphragm, then holding and releasing. By repeating this process, you will help to relax the body and reduce muscular and joint tension that is not provided by regular, shallow subconscious breathing
- Posture - Poor posture can cause neck pain by straining the muscles and ligaments that support the neck which can result in injury over time. The most common form of bad posture that leads to neck pain is slumping the shoulders forward and spending hours each day leaning over a desk behind a computer. Good posture is about keeping your neck in the neutral position, which mean your head balances directly over your spine and is not leaning forward cocked to one side. Keep your shoulders down and back in a relaxed position and consciously check in with yourself from time to time.
The Main Takeaway
Neck pain is a common ailment that can show up at any time as a reaction to some type of sudden stress, poor sleeping posture or a lack of joint or muscle mobility or flexibility.
There are a number of simple, natural remedies available for both relieving and expediting the healing process of neck pain that we've mentioned here.
Whilst neck stiffness or pain can be a temporary problem that will correct itself with even just a little support, over the long term, neck pain can be a sign that you need to make adjustments to your lifestyle to prevent future triggers.
Also, frequent neck stiffness or pain, can serve as a reminder that you need to embrace a few simple preventative measures into your self care routine like we've shared, which will go a long way to preserving your spinal health, strengthen your flexibility, mobility and that help to keep inflammation in check.
Tolman Self Care.