Have you woken up recently with stiff pain the neck from sleeping in a bad position? Most people experience neck pain and muscle pain at some point and the intensity can range from mild to severe, affecting your ability to work or function properly. When deep asleep, your head may fall into a bad position that puts stress on your neck muscles, resulting in stiffness and pain.
1. Use Hot Moisture
Heat is good for relaxing tense muscles and its better than dry heat because it reaches deep into the neck for faster relief. Apply heat to the back of the neck for at least 20 minutes at a time, and use a moist heat pad (you can get one at your nearest drug store) because it holds heat for longer periods and the temperature can be controlled. If however, you’re not able to use a heating pad, try a hot shower or heat a water bottle.
2. Place A Hot Towel Over Your Neck
You can use a hand towel to reduce severe neck pain- just heat a bowl of water and soak the hand towel or pour hot over all over it. Alternatively you can use a dryer to heat the hand towel for maybe 5 minutes and then drape the towel over your neck when feeling sore. Do it several times a day for 20 minutes at a time.
3. Use An Ice Pack
One advantage of extreme cold is that it dulls local pain and in the process minimizes the buildup of lactic acid, a common cause of soreness. Place the ice pack on the sensitive area on your neck and hold it there for 10 minutes, and then do it again after 2 hours.
- There’s a way to make this more comfortable- just sit back in your chair with your head resting back and then place the ice pack at the back, between your shoulders and the lower part of your head. When you lean back against the ice pack your neck gets the full benefit of the cold.
- Cold treatment is recommended for the first 2 to 3 days of neck pain, after which you should switch to heat.
- Bear in mind some experts are of the opinion that ice contributes to muscle stiffness because of contraction. Try whatever feels good to your neck.
4. Give Your Neck A Break
Did you know that your head weighs about 20lb? That’s a lot of weight to carry around and your neck needs all the support it can get. If your neck muscles are aching, it might be a good idea to lie down and rest for a while. Assume a good position and keep your head in a neutral position- use a pillow to balance the weight.
5. Have A Partner Massage The Affected Area
Everyone appreciates a good massage so neck pain or not, it should help make those short moments in life a little better. When combined with heat and cold treatments, it should minimize the discomfort at least for a day. Be gentle though, and if you’re experiencing intense pain, avoid massages.
6. Stretch Your Neck Muscles
To prevent injury, always warm up before stretching. A hot shower or hot compress can do that for you. The trick here is not to overstretch, so use these four techniques to relax your neck muscles:
- Turn your head slowly to the right, and with your right hand apply light tension on the chin so that your head turns a little more. Hold for about 30 seconds and then return your head to center. Do the same on the left side.
- Bend your head forward and slowly and relax your shoulders, and then bring your chin into contact with your chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.
- Tilt your head to one side and try to touch your ear to your shoulder, and use your left hand to apply very light pressure on your temple. Hold for 30 seconds and do the same to the other side.
- Lie on your back and place a pillow under your head. With your knees bent, nod your head forward and hold that position for 10 seconds at a time. Do this at least 10 times for maximum effect.
7. Reduce Stress
Is your job giving you undue stress and anxiety? Far too many people experience pain and tension in the neck because of stress. Go for a walk or read a book, and do your best to encourage an environment free of anxiety. Talk to someone about ways to reduce stress as it could cause more problems in the future.
8. Minimize Physical Activity
For the first few hours or days after you start experiencing neck pain, it is recommended that you avoid intense physical activity so as to reduce tension and inflammation. Avoid these sports and activities:
- Football, basketball- or other high-contact sports.
- Running and jogging.
- Leg lifts, pushups, etc.
9. Try Pain Medication Treatments
You can apply a topical analgesic for immediate relief, or use any balm that contains menthol or some other skin-soothing agent. Some good balms include Icy Hot, Aspercreme, and Ben Gay. Ibuprofen and aspirin are non-steroidal drugs that you can use for immediate pain relief and both are available over-the-counter.
10. Use A Muscle-Relaxant
These can offer neck pain relief but should only be used for short-term relief and only after other treatments such as cold and hot treatments prove ineffective. Keep in mind that muscle relaxers do contain other medicines, so watch out for drug interactions and read what’s on the label.
Tip: The way you sleep can cause neck and shoulder pain especially if you sleep on your stomach, because the neck is forcefully turned to one side for the entire night. Try falling to sleep on your back or side so that if you turn onto your stomach, your neck will be spared hours of strain and discomfort.
Know When To See A Doctor
Neck and muscle pain are not uncommon among people of all ages, but recurring or severe pain should not be ignored. If your neck gives you trouble for more than a few days, call your doctor for advice and avoid exerting your muscles unnecessarily.