Useful Tips

How to reduce neck muscle tension

Summary: Tension in the neck is usually characterized by stiffness, soreness in the neck, and difficulty in moving the neck, especially when the head is tilted to the side. This situation may be a simple neck muscle fatigue after a hard day's work, or it may be a symptom of a severe pathology.

neck strain

What is tension in the neck?

Many people experience pain and discomfort caused by tension in the neck. These symptoms can occur right in the morning or appear during the day after hard physical work, such as moving furniture. In most cases, pain and tension go away on their own within a week. Nevertheless, the intensity of pain, the duration of recovery, and the likelihood of relapse depend on how well a person manages the symptoms of tension in the neck.

Tension in the neck may be accompanied by headache, pain in the neck, shoulder and / or arm. In order to look around or over the shoulder, the patient is often forced to turn around with his whole body, instead of turning his neck.

Common Causes of Tension in the Neck

It is known that the main cause of tension in the neck is the stretching of muscles and soft tissues. In particular, the muscle that raises the scapula is very susceptible to trauma. Located at the back and side of the neck, the muscle that raises the shoulder blade connects the cervical spine to the shoulder. This muscle is controlled by the third and fourth cervical nerves (C3, C4).

The causes of stretching the muscle that raises the scapula may be the following:

  • a dream during which the neck is in an uncomfortable position,
  • a fall or a sudden external impact leading to a sharp throwing of the neck to the side, for example, with a sports injury,
  • repeated turns of the head from side to side, for example, when swimming in a sports style,
  • sitting in a hunched position while working at a computer,
  • experiencing severe stress or anxiety,
  • prolonged retention of the neck in an abnormal position, for example, when talking on the phone, sandwiched between the head and shoulder.

The cause of tension in the neck can be obvious if the symptoms begin immediately after a certain action, for example, after a fall or sports injury. If the tension in the neck appeared as if from nowhere, it can be problematic to establish its cause.

Other causes of tension in the neck

Sometimes tension in the neck is a reaction to a disease or condition of the cervical spine, which provides support and movement of the neck, and also protects the spinal cord from damage. A few examples of problems with the cervical spine that can lead to pain and muscle spasm include:

  • intervertebral hernia of the cervical spine. The protective membrane of the intervertebral disc breaks, and the internal gel-like contents come out, squeezing and chemically affecting nearby tissues. If tension in the neck is associated with a hernia or protrusion of the intervertebral disc of the cervical spine, then it is often combined with other symptoms of this pathology such as dizziness, jumps in blood pressure, headaches, pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, elbow, numbness of the fingers, pain between the shoulder blades. In the presence of concomitant symptoms, you need to see a doctor and have an MRI of the cervical spine on a high-floor apparatus.
  • degenerative-dystrophic disease of the cervical spine (cervical osteochondrosis). As a result of the fact that the intervertebral discs lose water over time and flatten, pressure on nearby joints, nerves and soft tissues such as ligaments and muscles increases. This process can lead to pain and tension in the neck,
  • cervical spondylarthrosis. Arthritic changes in the cervical arched joints located between the bones of the spine often occur along with other degenerative diseases, such as stenosis of the cervical spinal canal and spondylosis (the appearance of bone growths (osteophytes) on the vertebral bodies).

In rare cases, tension in the neck can be caused by infection or swelling.

Symptoms and signs of tension in the neck

The intensity of tension in the neck can vary from annoying discomfort to unbearable acute pain, which prevents a person from doing usual things. As a rule, an attempt to turn your head in a certain direction or in a certain direction causes such a strong attack of pain that a person immediately stops the action that has begun.

The inability to turn the head in certain directions can lead to a decrease in the level of patient activity. For example, if you cannot turn your head to the side, it is better not to drive until your condition improves.

What can and cannot be done with tension in the neck

Often, caring for the neck for one to two days is all that is needed to alleviate the patient's condition. In cases of severe pain, you may be advised to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and cold and heat therapy.

Wearing a neck collar that immobilizes a tense neck is not welcome. Instead, a person suffering from tension and soreness in the neck should try to return to the previous level of activity as soon as possible, especially after one or two days.

When is it necessary to see a doctor?

If stiffness in the neck lasts more than 3 days, you need to seek the advice of a specialist. In addition, regardless of the duration of the symptom, a patient with tension in the neck, accompanied by any alarming symptom, including fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and unexplained drowsiness, should immediately seek professional help.

In the vast majority of cases, tension in the neck is caused by a simple stretching of the muscles or other soft tissues that heal on their own within a few days. Nevertheless, some treatment methods are available to patients, aimed at reducing pain and accelerating the healing process.

Self-help methods for tension in the neck

There are several ways to alleviate your condition with tension in the neck. These methods include:

  • relaxation. Careful attitude to the neck within one to two days can initiate the healing process, which, in turn, will lead to a decrease in tension and muscle spasm. For example, swimming enthusiasts are advised to avoid sports styles that include frequent head turns for several days. However, doctors recommend limiting one to two days of rest, as long inactivity can lead to muscle weakness, and weakened muscles will be forced to support the neck and head.
  • cold and / or heat therapy. Cold therapy (ice application) reduces local inflammation and relieves spasm. Ice is recommended to be applied in the first 24-48 hours after the onset of symptoms. Applying heat to the neck enhances blood flow, which speeds up the healing process. Some people prefer cold, others prefer warm. These methods can also be alternated,
  • taking over-the-counter pain medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually used at the very beginning of treatment for tension in the neck. These drugs include medicines that contain ibuprofen or naproxen. Even over-the-counter drugs have possible side effects and contraindications, so before you start taking it, you should definitely consult a doctor or pharmacist,
  • neat stretching. Gentle stretching can help reduce stress and restore lost range of motion. Your doctor or physiotherapist can explain how to stretch your neck,
  • sparing aerobic exercises. Any gentle aerobic exercise, such as walking, can help reduce any tension. Despite the fact that when walking the neck is not directly involved, the flow of oxygen to the soft tissues is enhanced, and the healing process is accelerated.

In cases where tension in the neck lasts longer than 3 days, you need to see a doctor. If the tension in the neck is combined with pain / numbness / tingling in the neck, arm or shoulder, then it is likely that the cause is not a sprain, but degenerative-dystrophic changes in the spine. If you suspect a hernia of the intervertebral disc, you need to contact a neurologist who will listen to complaints, conduct an examination and, if necessary, send you for additional studies, which may include x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). If the diagnosis of "intervertebral hernia" has been confirmed, you will be offered treatment, which may consist of massage, unloading traction of the spine, physiotherapy exercises, acupuncture and other conservative methods. If you suspect that the cause of your stiff neck may be an intervertebral hernia, consult your doctor for advice. Early diagnosis and treatment have a positive effect on the effectiveness of therapeutic measures and the prognosis of the disease.

The article was added to Yandex Webmaster 2018-04-04, 17:00.

What is the reason

Overstrain of the neck muscles often occurs under the influence of the following reasons:

  1. sudden head movements
  2. unnatural posture during sleep,
  3. violation of posture
  4. prolonged stay in an uncomfortable position (for example, working at a computer),
  5. physical overload
  6. complete lack of physical activity,
  7. lack of calcium and vitamins in the body,
  8. nerve stress
  9. stressful situations
  10. overwork.

In addition, tense muscles often occur in those people who suffer from radiculitis, osteochondrosis, myositis and some other diseases of the musculoskeletal system. With such pathologies, treatment should be carried out only by a specialist. Trying to relieve pain and remove the symptoms of a serious illness at home is not recommended.


The following symptoms are indicative of the fact that the neck muscles are very strained in a person:

  • aching pain affecting the cervical spine, back of the head, shoulder joint (in this case, the spasm may intensify or weaken)
  • impaired mobility (with an overstrain of muscles it becomes difficult to tilt and turn the head, make movements with hands),
  • loss of sensation (the patient may have numbness of the neck and shoulders),
  • severe headaches, dizziness,
  • worsening of well-being, general weakness.

If these symptoms are ignored and no measures are taken to eliminate tension in the muscles of the neck, irreversible changes may occur in the body. Due to muscular tension, blood vessels and nerve endings will begin to suffer, blood circulation and oxygen flow to the brain will deteriorate. All this can lead to the development of migraine, impaired brain activity, strokes, etc.

What to do

There are many effective ways to relieve muscle tension from the shoulders and neck, if it is not associated with osteochondrosis and other diseases of the musculoskeletal system. At home, you can try to perform the following exercises:

  • It is necessary to sit on a chair with a straight back, put your hands with your palms on the occipital region and connect them into the lock. Then you need to gently and smoothly pull your head down, pressing your chin to your neck (all movements should be slow so as not to damage the muscles and ligaments). Having lowered your head to the maximum possible point, you need to fix this position for 30 seconds, and then take the starting position and relax.
  • You need to sit on the floor and rest against the horizontal surface with your left hand. With your right hand you need to grab your head and push it, pulling to the right side. As in the previous exercise, all movements need to be done slowly and smoothly. After the head is lowered as low as possible, you must remain in this position for 30 seconds. Then the exercise must be repeated from the second side.
  • You need to sit on the floor on your knees so that the buttocks touch the heels. Hands should be taken back and rested against the floor. You need to bend your back, raise your chest, and take your head back. In this position, you also need to sit for 30 seconds. After that, you need to relax your muscles and stretch your arms forward.
  • In addition to physical exercises, it is always possible to relieve muscle tension with the help of painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs of general and external action (Ibuprofen, Ketanov, etc.). Take such medications strictly according to the instructions, not exceeding the recommended dosage. Before using medications, you should consult your doctor.

Muscle tension can also be relieved by physiotherapy. To eliminate pain and other symptoms, procedures such as:

  • electrophoresis
  • diadynamic currents,
  • magnetotherapy
  • massage course.

First aid

If the tension in the cervical spine does not appear constantly, but in rare cases, the following measures can be taken to eliminate the symptoms:

  • lie in a comfortable position and relax (if possible, you need to sleep for several hours),
  • take a warm but not too hot relaxing bath
  • for 15 minutes, apply a cool compress to the affected area, and then replace it with a warm one,
  • gently massage the collar area without making sharp and intense movements,
  • smear the neck with warming cream.

It is not necessary to carry out all the above recommendations at the same time. To relieve pain that is not associated with any serious illness, it is enough to use 1-2 tips.

If the discomfort is caused by a violation of the musculoskeletal system, a person needs to see a doctor. Any self-medication in such situations can be dangerous.


For the prevention of muscle cramps, muscle tension, pain in the head and neck, a number of simple rules must be observed:

  1. sleep on an orthopedic pillow,
  2. regularly do gymnastics, perform physical exercises,
  3. take vitamin complexes
  4. avoid drafts and hypothermia,
  5. in the presence of extra pounds to reduce weight,
  6. monitor your posture, do not hunch,
  7. sit at a table with a flat back, straightened chest and shoulders, do not strain,
  8. during sedentary work, take breaks for several minutes every hour and warm up during them.

To summarize

Muscular overstrain is a frequent companion of diseases of the musculoskeletal system. In order to prevent the development of severe pathologies, you need to start fighting muscle tension as early as possible. Timely prophylaxis started will allow a person to stay healthy for a long time, have a strong muscle corset and not experience discomfort in the cervical spine.