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How to Relieve Stiff Neck Pain

By Joshua Duvauchelle ; Updated July 27, 2017

More than half of all Americans experience a stiff, sore neck at least once a year, reports the University of Illinois' McKinley Health Center. Neck pain is usually not a major cause of concern, since it typically only lasts for a few days and goes away on its own. However, you don't have to stick it out and wait for the pain to resolve itself. Several tricks and strategies can help you relieve your stiff, sore neck faster so you can get back to doing the things you love.

Chill with a Pill

One of the fastest and most commonly used ways to find relief for your neck pain is to pop an over-the-counter pain reliever. Examples include acetaminophen and ibuprofen. If you don't like to swallow pills, you can also try rubbing an ibuprofen gel onto your neck for localized pain relief.

Apply Heat or Cold

To soothe your stiff, sore neck muscles and tendons and help find pain relief and relaxation, try alternating a cold or hot compress. During the first three days of experiencing neck pain, apply ice or a frozen bag of vegetables to your neck. After the three days are up, use a hot compress, such as a hot water bottle or a heating pad.

Change Your Pillows

That big, fluffy pillow you love may not be showing much love to your sore neck. During a bout of neck stiffness and pain, switch to a firm, flat pillow. Or even better, ditch the pillow altogether. Anything that forces your head above your body creates a poor sleeping posture, which may simply aggravate your neck pain.

Monitor Your Posture

Many of the day-to-day tasks you do may create tension and common points of aggravation that prolong your neck discomfort. For example, avoid sitting cross-legged on the floor or slouching on a couch — all are common positions that strain your spine alignment and can lead to neck pain. Additionally, never support a telephone by squeezing it between your head and your shoulder, and adjust your computer monitor so it's right in front of your field of vision and doesn't require any bending of your head.

Consult a Doctor

While most cases of stiffness or pain in your neck are no cause for worry, you may wish to consult a doctor in certain circumstances to verify that the neck pain isn't a symptom of something worse. Call a physician if your stiff, sore neck is accompanied by a headache, a fever, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or if you feel numbness or tingling in your hands or arms.

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