Ugh, there's nothing more annoying than a stiff neck throwing off your groove. Whether you have a sore neck from sleeping, driving, or just sitting at the computer too long, this pesky problem is irritating at best and agonizing at worst. (Who else has had a neck so sore it hurt to turn your hea?) Luckily, there are a few simple ways to stop this aggravating issue before it even starts. So if a stiff neck is constantly getting under your skin, you'll definitely want to take notes.
According to physical therapist Chrindye Dietz, everyone over age 30 should be stretching daily to prevent neck stiffness. In an interview with Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials, she explains, "For most people I recommend just stretching once a day at a stoplight or in the shower, and if it flares up then stretch a couple times a day for a few days until it loosens up."
Luckily, these stretching exercises are pretty simple. They include:
- Doing a backbend by standing up and gently bending your back backward.
- Turning your head over your right shoulder followed by your left.
- Pulling your chin in and then slowly tipping your head back.
- Squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Arching your back before gently rotating to the right and left.
Do about five to 10 reps of each of these stretches per day and see if your neck loosens up afterward.
If you often notice neck pain in the morning, the cause might be related to your sleeping routine. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a pillow that is too flat or too poofy can disrupt your sleep by bending your head downward or upward too much. You'll know you picked the right pillow only if it positions your head in a neutral position. Neutral means your nose is in line with the very center of your body (aka your spine). Consider buying a pillow that you know will mold comfortably to the shape of your neck, such as a memory foam pillow. Your sleeping position can also play a role in neck stiffness. While sleeping on your tummy might feel comfy in the moment, the truth is that you have to twist your head to the side, putting unnecessary pressure on your neck. Try side sleeping or back sleeping if you can — on the coziest pillow you can find.
Sometimes a stiff neck can be caused by the smallest habits you don't even realize you're doing each day. For instance, having your computer monitor above or below eye level can strain your neck, especially if you sit at a desk for hours on end. According to Mayo Clinic, it's important to adjust your desk, chair, and computer so you're able to see the screen at eye level. Ideally, your knees will be slightly lower than your hips in this sitting position, and you'll be using armrests if your chair has them.
But whether you're standing or sitting, posture is key. Make sure your shoulders are in a straight line over your hips and your ears are directly over your shoulders. Answer a lot of calls throughout the day? It's best to avoid tucking the phone between your ear and shoulder while you chat. A headset or speakerphone could take a lot of pressure off your neck. If you find yourself sitting for long periods of time — at a chair or on the road — be sure to take breaks frequently and move around. Turns out, stretching your legs is good for your neck, too!