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This fantastic article was written by Anthony Alayon, a Certified Sports Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer, Accountant and best-selling fitness author. We encourage you to check out his website and visit his Facebook page! 

A tight neck can be debilitating and make even the most simple movements excruciating. The pain, headaches, and difficulty with lateral movement are extremely common symptoms of a tight neck. The good news is there are some simple ways to combat this, but first, we must understand the physiology behind what causes neck stiffness.

Muscular Strain or Soft Tissue Strain

One of the most common causes of neck tightness is a muscular strain or soft tissue strain.  In particular, the levator scapula muscle which connects the spine with the shoulder is the culprit when fatigued or overworked.  When this occurs, it can result in stiffness that is painful and may restrict neck mobility.[2]

There are many ways to injure, overwork or fatigue this muscle in your neck.  One of the biggest problems I have is sleeping the wrong way.  It always causes neck stiffness.  Some other ways to experience a tight neck can be sports related injuries from sudden impact or falls and repetitive activities.

Text Neck

Modern societal paradigms also have resulted in an epidemic known as “text neck” which has gained notoriety recently via the research of Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, chief of spine surgery at New York Spine Surgery and Rehabilitation Medicine.

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This is the consequence texof the poor posture associated with looking at your mobile device for extended periods of time. According to Hansraj, this is causing inflammation and increased stress on the cervical spine that can lead to degeneration.[5]

Editor’s Note: Over the last year, cases of “text neck” have been popping up more and more. A notable case surfaced in Colorado, when a 14-year-old girl developed the newly named medical condition that resulted from constantly looking down at her phone. According to one report, some kids are spending upwards of thousands of hours looking down at their phones which strains the neck, causes tense shoulders, and numbness in the arms.

“[Text neck] was mostly just achy and it made it really hard to concentrate.”

There are other causes of neck stiffness including cervical spine disorders such as a herniated disc, cervical degenerative diseases or cervical arthritis. A typical symptom of Meningitis includes a stiff neck, so this serious disease can especially not be discounted, particularly if accompanied by high fever and nausea or vomiting. [4]

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Excessive stress has also been labeled as a culprit in the muscle strain associated with neck tightness. Anxiety related neck stiffness is a consequence of the flight or fights response of your body when exposed to stress stimuli. This elicits certain physiological responses, including the tightening or “priming” of certain muscle groups which in turn can cause a tight neck. [1,2]

6 Simple Stretches to Relieve Neck Pain

neck pain

Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

For the relief of a tight neck, there are simple stretches that you can do in the comfort of your own home or office that give prompt relief and relax the implicated muscles and doing these stretches regularly can really make a big difference in reducing or possibly eliminating the pain associated with a tight neck.

When doing these stretches, it is imperative to pull or push to the point at which you feel the stretch, or “twinge.” It absolutely must NOT be painful. The aim of a stretch is to lengthen the muscle along the fascia and dissipate accumulation of lactic acid or release a seized muscle. [2]

All stretches must be done in a controlled and measured manner. Jerky, overextended movements can do more harm than good.   

Stretch 1

  1. In a seated or a standing position, gently drop your chin towards your chest, while maintaining a good posture. This stretches the muscles responsible for a backward movement of the head.

  2. To deepen the stretch, place a hand firmly on the back of the head and press gently. Hold this position for 10 – 30 seconds, return to the neutral position and repeat the stretch.

  3. It is advisable to do 4 sets to 4 repetitions. [5]

Stretch 2

  1. In the seated position, maintaining a good erect posture, hold the seat with your left hand, and then turn your head to the right, concentrating on a smooth movement, tilting your ear towards your shoulder.

  2. It is important not to overstretch, and stop when you feel a gentle stretch.

  3. You can press downwards on left side of your head to intensify the movement. Hold the position for 10 seconds, release the stretch and then perform on the opposite side. [3]  

  4. Perform 3 sets on each side of your body.

Stretch 3

  1. Hyperextend your neck backward towards your spine to stretch the forward flexing neck muscles adequately.

  2. You can again push down lightly on your forehead to add a bit more to the stretch if desired. Again hold the stress for 10 seconds at a time.[3] 

  3. Perform 3 sets once a day for the best results.

Stretch 4 

  1. In a seated or standing position, with the head in a neutral position, rotate the head to the left, keeping your eyes on an even plane until a light tension is felt on the opposite side.

  2. Hold this rotated position for 10 – 30 seconds and bring the head back to the neutral position. Then repeat towards the right. [3] 

  3. Perform 2 sets on each side of your body once a day.

Stretch 5

  1. In a seated or standing position, drop the chin to the chest, when the first pull is felt, roll the head to the left and backward, then to the right and forward.

  2. Roll the head through this movement for 5 – 10 repetitions the repeat in the opposite direction. This movement must be controlled to avoid injury.[3] 

  3. Perform 2 sets on each side.

Stretch 6

  1. In a standing position, stand with your feet comfortably apart with your arms hanging at your sides. Reach both hands behind your buttocks and clasp your left wrist with your right hand.

  2. Using your right hand, gently straighten your left arm and pull it away from your body.

  3. To deepen this stretch, lower your right ear towards your shoulder. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then switch sides. [3] 

  4. You can start with 2 to 3 sets on each side.

I hope you enjoyed this article.  If you found this information useful, please share it with your friends, family, and co-workers on Facebook or any other social platform you may use.

  1. http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety/symptoms/neck-tension.shtml

  2. Ganong (2003): Review of Medical Physiology, 21st Edition, McGraw-Hill Companies

  3. http://www.livestrong.com/article/471683-how-to-stretch-out-a-stiff-neck

  4. http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/neck-pain/stiff-neck-causes-symptoms-and-treatment

  5. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news:‘Text neck’ is becoming an ‘epidemic’ and could wreck your spine, By Lindsey Bever (November 20, 2014)

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Anthony Alayon
Health Expert
Founder at Health Reporter Daily Anthony Alayon is a best-selling fitness author who currently serves over 70,000 newsletter subscribers with his daily emails. He’s also a Certified Sports Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer and Accountant. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, Bodybuilding.About.com (A NY Times Company), Labrada Nutrition, Critical Bench, Natural Muscle Magazine, Bliss Magazine and many more. If you’d like more information like this from Anthony, please visit his web site Health Reporter Daily and follow him on Facebook!