Neck pain or stiff neck & advice

Neck pain, a stiff neck, difficulty turning the head – these are common complaints. Many people who have ever been ‘on the road’ know all about it. Nevertheless, the causes of neck pain can be very diverse, including tension and stress. In the majority of cases, the cause of a stiff neck must be sought in the shoulders, with the pain radiating to the neck. Stretching exercises, in combination with relaxation techniques, usually provide relief. Neck pain can also be less harmless than it seems. Consider whiplash or a tumor on the spine, although the latter is rare. Neck complaints are more common in some professions. Such as work where people sit in front of the computer all day and often unconsciously acquire a wrong sitting habit. In most cases, neck pain or a stiff neck can be prevented with some practical tips and advice.


  • Neck pain or stiff neck – usually harmless
  • Chronic neck pain – go to the doctor or not?
  • Additional symptoms
  • Serious causes of neck pain
  • Tension and stress
  • Simple exercises for neck pain
  • Other tips & advice
  • Lifting and sitting
  • Keep your head high
  • Computer screen and phone calls
  • Sleep without neck pain
  • Wear a scarf often
  • Painkillers and ointments
  • Heat and ice packs
  • Relaxation exercises


Neck pain or stiff neck – usually harmless

Everyone knows how to talk about it. After all, a stiff neck is common. In most cases the causes are harmless, ranging from catching a cold, sitting somewhere in a draft or overworked muscles when lifting something heavy. Neck stiffness is also a notorious complication of flu, tension and (chronic) stress. Turning or bending the neck is then difficult and painful. Often the shoulder muscles are the real culprits, with the pain radiating to the neck. With innocent causes, neck stiffness will disappear within a few days to a week.Anatomy of the Neck / Source: Lucien Monfils, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)

Chronic neck pain – go to the doctor or not?

Anyone who holds an unnatural position for a long time, whether work-related or not, almost always suffers from chronic neck pain. An example of an unnatural posture is walking or sitting hunched over, with the eyes in front of the shoulder line. The risk of neck complaints is then high. Neck pain is often accompanied by headache and/or dizziness.Complaints Certain professions with sedentary or standing work are sensitive to this, especially if the people concerned do nothing to prevent these complaints or are not aware of them. In a very small number of cases (chronic) neck pain has less innocent causes. Nevertheless, it is important to always be alert to this.

Additional symptoms

In any case, go to the doctor if you have the following additional complaints, i.e. if neck pain or neck stiffness is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness.
  • The neck pain is so bad that one cannot bring one’s chin to one’s chest, even if one tries slowly.
  • Blood from the ear.
  • Loss.
  • After an accident. Think of whiplash. Always go to the doctor if you have these complaints. In many cases, whiplash is considered personal injury (insurance).
  • Fever.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Visual complaints.
  • Fatigue, general malaise.


Serious causes of neck pain

In less than two percent of cases of neck pain or stiff neck, the cause is serious. Nevertheless, it is important to remember this if neck pain does not go away within a week and becomes chronic, with additional signs and symptoms. But even in acute cases, without a clearly identifiable cause, it is important to go to the doctor. Some serious causes of neck pain include:

  • Osteoarthritis (wear and tear) of the cervical vertebrae.
  • Osteoporosis (bone loss).
  • Whiplash.
  • Meningitis (inflammation of the meninges).
  • Neck hernia, usually radiating to the arms.
  • Tumors on the vertebrae, or carcinogenic metastases to the bone.
  • Cardiovascular disease, such as an impending heart attack, where the pain radiates to the arms, shoulders and neck.

 Source: Pexels, Pixabay

Tension and stress

chronic stress in particular cause many complaints. Chronic stress can also become increasingly serious with complaints such as blackouts, stomach ulcers, nervous heart complaints (e.g. a racing pulse), burnout syndrome, trembling, insomnia, anxiety and depression. Neck and back problems can also almost be called characteristic. Usually, a tense body resulting in tense neck muscles is one of the accompanying symptoms of stress, often in combination with poor posture and a profession in which people tend to bend, stand or sit.

Simple exercises for neck pain

In the vast majority of cases, neck pain is harmless in nature and is caused by mental tension , overload, incorrect posture or a cold on the muscles (draft). Exercises sometimes provide relief. After all, they loosen the muscles. Neck pain can be prevented thanks to certain training. Consider yoga, tai chi and other sports that train all muscles and joints. For neck pain or stiffness, perform the following four simple exercises five times in a row, two to three times a day. They take little time and many people will benefit greatly from them, also from a preventive point of view. The exercises can be done standing or sitting. It is important not to move your shoulders while exercising.Four exercises

  • Bend the head as far forward as possible, then as far back as possible.
  • Turn the head as slowly as possible to the right and to the left.
  • Bend the head to the side. First to the left, then to the right. Always try to get the head as close to the shoulders as possible.
  • Extend both arms horizontally in front of you and hold some weights (approx. 1-2 kilos). Then shrug your shoulders while keeping your arms extended horizontally.
  • Do exercises 1 and 2 while holding one hand against the forehead (when bending forward) and one hand against the back of the head (when bending backward). In exercise 3, hold one hand against the side of the head as you bend the head to the side. Apply light counter pressure in this way.

 Source: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

Other tips & advice

Regardless of your profession or lifestyle , with a few tips and advice you can simply prevent neck pain or a stiff neck in most cases. The list below is by no means exhaustive. After all, prevention is a dynamic process. You undoubtedly also know other methods that can prevent or remedy this annoying ailment. Add them to the list as desired. Regularly doing neck exercises and learning correct posture are a kind of common thread for those who often suffer from it.

Lift and sit

Always lift correctly to prevent neck pain . Most people are familiar with the correct technique. As soon as you lift something, first bend your knees, feet shoulder width apart, keeping your back straight and the object as close to your body as possible. Provide a sturdy chair that provides back support at home and at work. Sinking on the couch often causes back, neck and shoulder problems. Correct posture when standing while doing housework or professional work is also very important. A tip for those who are having a new kitchen installed: make sure that the height of the countertop is adapted to your height. A countertop that is too low for your height is asking for problems. Get advice on this.

Keep your head high

Do you do a lot of desk work? A proven technique to prevent a stiff neck is to keep the head straight while pressing the chin back, as if to create a double chin. Adjust the placement of the computer screen, the height of the desk and the adjustment of the office chair accordingly. Prevent the neck and neck muscles from becoming overloaded .

Computer screen and phone calls

Ideally, the computer screen should be placed at eye level. This prevents you from having to look down or up for hours. Also pay attention to a natural head position when making phone calls and taking notes. Get up from your (office) chair regularly and walk around, even if you are busy. It gives rest to the neck and neck muscles.Sleeping habits / Source: Free Photos, Pixabay

Sleep without neck pain

It may sound strange, but people who regularly complain of a stiff neck are often better off sleeping without a pillow. Or with a special neck pillow. Poor sleeping habits sometimes worsen or cause neck problems. A hard mattress usually also offers relief. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach or kick the habit. It is a bad posture for both the neck and the back . Many people have the least complaints when they sleep in the fetal position, i.e. in a side position and with their knees drawn up.

Wear a scarf often

Of course, putting on a thick coat when it’s cold goes without saying. But if you often have a stiff neck, wrapping a scarf is just as important. Cold and draft are disastrous.

Painkillers and ointments

There are all kinds of ointments, creams and other ointments available, whether homeopathic or not, to relieve acute neck pain or a stiff neck. Painkillers can also be used during menopause, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. However, be careful with the dosage and use them as little as possible to avoid harmful side effects and habituation.

Heat and ice packs

Sometimes ice packs help in the initial stages of a stiff neck. Adding heat, such as a warm shower, soothes the pain and inhibits possible symptoms of inflammation.Complete relaxation of the hand in savasana (corpse pose) / Source: Robert Bejil, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-2.0)

Relaxation exercises

Especially those who suffer from stress and tension benefit from relaxation exercises. Do yoga, tai chi and meditation. They are proven methods to release tension and prevent physical complaints, including neck pain or a stiff neck. An excellent yoga relaxation exercise is savasana (corpse pose):

  • Spread out a yoga mat or blanket and lie on your back. Hold the hands loosely on either side of the body, palms facing up. Place the feet close together, but make sure the heels do not touch each other.
  • Close your eyes and relax.
  • Think about breathing. First breathe in and out slowly and deeply until the breathing eventually becomes almost imperceptible and refined. Visualize the breath as a silken thread that will inevitably break with each jerky breath.
  • While relaxing the lower jaw, tongue, eyelids, neck and neck. Then relax the rest of the body. Eventually the body will start to feel heavier and heavier, as if you are only made up of breathing.
  • Stay in this beneficial relaxation position for 15 to 20 minutes, including for the neck. Breathe calmly into full yogic breathing.
  • If necessary, combine the regular savasana (corpse pose) with the more intensive savasana II


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