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Woman experiencing neck tension

How to Relieve Neck Tension: Causes, Treatment, & Prevention

Neck pains are some of the most common discomforts people feel. They can find themselves feeling good the whole day, only to wake up to having an aching neck the following day. Poor sleeping positions and working for long hours are just some of the common causes of neck tension.

People who work in a desk setup usually spend their entire day sitting in front of the computer. While it may seem harmless at first, looking at the screen all day can lead to neck pains if you don’t use an ergonomic seat, stretch from time to time, and let yourself slouch. 

We will be looking at common causes of this issue and how you can relieve neck tension whenever it occurs.

Common Causes of Neck Tension

Poor Posture 

Neck pains can start from working in front of your computer, gaming, or texting on your phone for hours on end. Sleeping in an odd position can also cause neck discomfort. All of these scenarios are attributed to poor posture. 

Unfortunately, since working or gaming requires intense focus, most people would forego proper posture once they zone out in finishing their tasks. They won’t feel or notice that they’re sitting or positioned irregularly until the feelings of neck tension start to creep in. 

Working manual labor

Strenuous manual labor like working at a construction site can cause various posture issues and body pains like neck aches and tension. Carrying sacks of sand or cement on your shoulder would put tremendous weight on that side of your body.

Repetitive movements can also strain your body and cause muscle spasms and pain. Using heavy machinery repeatedly is just some manual labor-related activities that can lead to neck tension

Injuries

Exercise, contact sports, and vehicular accidents can all result in neck tension. While some neck injuries subside in a few days, some can be more severe and require additional medical attention.

Getting involved in a car collision can also rock your neck violently back and forth in rapid succession, causing a whiplash injury. See your doctor or chiropractor immediately once this happens. 

Stress

Stress can cause neck tension as it releases cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones have several functions and involve tightening the muscles. If you are stressed out most of the time, your muscles will tend to be tense for longer periods, possibly causing various muscle pains.

How to Relieve Tension in Neck and Shoulders

Due to neck tension being one of the most common types of bodily pains people feel, you will have it at some point in your life. As such, it’s important to know the basic home remedies for neck tension so you can address mild pains and discomfort before resorting to medical treatment. Below are some simple solutions for treating neck pains:

Using Hot & Cold Compress

Applying ice packs or heat packs can help alleviate neck tension. A cold compress is ideal during the first 24 to 48 hours after the pain occurs since it can reduce swelling and inflammation by limiting blood flow to the area. Only apply ice packs no more than 20 minutes at a time.

Meanwhile, heat packs relieve neck tension by encouraging blood flow, relaxing the stiff muscles, and increasing muscle flexibility. In most cases, heat packs can alleviate the problem 15 to 20 minutes after its application. 

Getting a Massage

Having massage therapy on your neck can greatly reduce its pain and stiffness. Various methods like a deep tissue massage can alleviate chronic neck pains and release tension. Its deep pressure approach can reach all the sensitive muscles and connective tissues of the neck to get rid of muscle stiffness and tension.

You can also massage your neck yourself if you have yet to go to a therapist. First, locate where the pain from your neck is coming from. Once you’ve spotted it, firmly press on it with your fingers and slowly move them in circular motions. Repeat this process for about five minutes while also repeating in the opposite direction. This self-massaging technique is a simple but effective way for relieving neck tension on your own.

Prevent Neck Tension

Posture is key for preventing most muscle and bone pains. We’ve listed below some tips on how you can avoid neck pains and tension:

Setting Up an Ergonomic Workstation

Since sitting and typing for a longer period is one of the major causes of neck tension, it’s always a good idea to have an ergonomic workstation. Ensure you have a stable and adjustable seat that can position you to sit at eye level to your screen. 

Have Proper Pillows

If your neck tension surfaces after you wake up, you can try to change your pillows. You can try out flat and firm pillows to prevent your neck from sinking too low from your shoulders and lose any support as you sleep. 

Stretch & Exercise Regularly

A general change in one’s lifestyle can help prevent the onset of neck tension. Stretching, exercising, and simply moving around in between work are effective measures in preventing neck tension from occurring. Doing regular stretches increases the range of motion of your neck, while exercising strengthens and conditions your muscles to better support your head and other parts of your body.

Head rotations also increase your neck flexibility. You can do this sitting or standing. Keep your head, shoulders, and back aligned. Next, look straight ahead and turn your head clockwise or hold it to one side. Keep the position for 30 seconds, then switch to the other side or rotate counter-clockwise. Perform this five times on each side for a total of 10 repetitions.

Be Aware of Your Posture

Taking note of how you sit or stand can also help you keep neck tension and pains from happening. If you’re doing office tasks, always make sure you’re sitting properly. Your ears, shoulders, and hips should be in a straight line. Do not slump or slouch as your neck will mostly do all the support for your head and eventually lead to neck tension.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Neck tensions are usually not as alarming compared to other conditions. However, if it arises after you’ve been in a car accident or doing sports and exercise, it’s best to see your doctor or chiropractor immediately. Proper and immediate medical attention is especially vital if your neck tension is accompanied by nausea, fever, persistent headaches, and balance difficulties. Your doctor would usually conduct several tests to determine the severity of your condition and draw up a treatment plan to accelerate your recovery process.

Visit the LifeClinic blog for more health, lifestyle, and fitness advice.

Dr. Reza Alizadeh

Dr. Reza is the visionary behind LifeClinic. His leadership is the foundation for the patient and team member experience, and overall direction of the LifeClinic. As the creator of IMJT, Dr. Reza continues to be the primary teacher on this technique.

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