Facts on Stiff Neck

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Not a Good Way to Wake Up

Waking up with sore, stiff neck muscles is definitely one of the most uncomfortable, downright painful, human conditions. You can't straighten up without your muscles revolting. Yet, everyone knows what a stiff neck is, so it's unfortunately very common. The cause can be anything from sleeping wrong to bad posture to a symptom of something more serious.

Sit Up Straight!

It turns out Mom was right. As the time ticks by while we're working, watching TV or reading, we become less attentive to our posture. Exactly what is "sitting up straight"? Let's take sitting at a computer as an example. Your feet should be on the floor with your knees slightly below your hips. Adjust your chair or monitor if necessary. You should be able to look directly at the monitor with your head and shoulders straight, but not tense. Relax, but not so much that you hunch over. Your hands should rest on the desk or wrist pad. If you begin to ache, that's your alarm clock. Don't hit the snooze button. Take a break.

Home Remedies to the Rescue

You can administer stiff neck treatment at home if you're certain the pain is the result of poor posture. Take over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief. Apply ice or heat to the area. Heat relaxes muscles while ice helps lower inflammation; you may need to alternate between the two. Use what works best. Do some neck exercises to increase your range of motion. With your posture in check, turn your head slowly to the left as far as you can and back to center 5 times. Repeat on the right side. Then slowly bend your head toward your shoulder and back up 5 times. Repeat on the other side.

Chronic Stiff Neck

If stiff neck pain reoccurs, invest in a neck pillow. You might be sleeping on your neck wrong. Massage therapy is helpful to release the muscle spasms, and a qualified massage therapist is your best source. If you cannot wait and can't afford massage therapy, ask a friend or family member to massage the sore muscles. Have your friend apply pressure to the sore muscles using a circular motion. If the pain doesn't go away after several days or gets worse, see your doctor.

When Your Neck Is More Than Stiff

A stiff neck accompanied by a headache, fever and the inability to touch your chin to your chest could be meningitis. Go to the hospital. If you have weakness, numbness or tingling in your hand or arm, it could mean a nerve is involved due to a herniated disk. Neck pain following an accident could be the result of a vertebral fracture or whiplash. In either case, contact your doctor. Other symptoms in conjunction with a stiff neck that warrant a visit to your doctor are swollen lymph nodes, pain that over-the-counter medication does not relieve, and difficulty swallowing or breathing.