4 tips to prevent a stiff neck - Why does it happen and how can you prevent it?


Have you ever woken up with a stiff neck, where you can hardly turn your head and everything feels tight?


At Physio K, this is something we see very often. We know this can be quite debilitating and it can have a huge impact on your day, so let's have a look at a few things to prevent this annoying issue.




How to prevent a stiff neck? Causes of neck problems


Most times, it is a combination of circumstances that causes problems in the body. It is no different with this type of issue, although 1 factor can contribute a lot more than others and can be the tipping point to give you the unwanted symptoms. Let's have a look at the most common causes of neck problems:



1. Stress


It is still debatable if stress is a cause or a trigger of many issues in the body. Nevertheless, it can contribute massively to the building up of a problem. Everyone will have some weak links in the body or at least some areas which are more prone to react to stressful events. Sometimes it's the lower back, sometimes it's the tummy, many times it's the neck or the cervical spine which will be impacted. The area between the neck and the shoulder is a very common area to stiffen up or actually cramp up altogether. The muscle you’ll feel in many cases is the upper trapezius.

A single stressful event can cause the muscles in the neck and shoulder area to tense up suddenly and hence reduce your mobility and cause pain.



2. Cold


Muscles don't like to be exposed to the cold, especially not if it's a local cold or wind, like air conditioning or wind from one direction. Sitting in an office with the aircon from a specific angle, driving a car with the window open for a period of time or sleeping with the window open when there's a breeze can cause your neck to stiffen up in a short time. We've seen this hundred of times, when people come into the practice, unable to turn their head with muscle cramps after being exposed to a local cold. Be wary of that and try to cover the exposed parts before it's too late.



3. Sleeping position


It is well known (or at least it should be) that sleeping on the tummy is not the ideal position for your spine, especially not for the neck. The reason for that is that the discs in between the vertebrae will not be able to recover enough during the night. Discs are filled with liquid; during the day we will gradually put some strain and pressure on our discs. That's no big deal and they are designed to handle these forces, as long as they can recover enough during the night. With sleeping on the tummy, your head will constantly be rotated to one side, which makes it hard or near impossible to have a good recovery for those discs.

So, do yourself a favour and, if you haven't already, change your sleeping position to either the side (left or right, it doesn't matter) or your back. Most people will turn quite often during the night, which is great, but we recommend to not lay on your tummy (or in another strange twisted position) for long periods of time.



4. Posture


1 of the more common (and easy to fix) problems we see in our practice, is people who have a desk job and are set up with 2 computer screens. It obviously depends on how long you will watch at each screen. When the ratio is 90/10, then it makes sense to have 1 screen straight ahead of you and the other one either to your left or right. It is a good idea to change that side screen every now and then, in order to prevent neck rotations to the same side all the time.

This becomes a lot more important when the ratio becomes closer to 50/50. When 1 screen is in front of you and the other to the side, you will have a constant rotation to the same side, causing an imbalance in the neck muscles and fascia. Although this is a minor stress to the body, repetition over time can, slowly but surely, build up tension and contribute to neck pain.

A screen slightly to the left and the other to the right is an easy fix for this and will balance the rotations to either side, causing more symmetry in your movements and hence less stress to the body with fewer risks for injury!





There are obviously other causing factors for neck pain, such as trauma, whiplash and a few others. In this post, we simply wanted to talk about non-traumatic factors which contribute to neck pain and stiffness, more specifically the ones we see very often in our practice.





Please be aware of these common contributors to neck stiffness and know that small changes can make a significant difference.


If you do end up with neck or shoulder pain, do not hesitate to contact us; we’ll happily help you recover and relieve your pain!


If you want to read more about neck pain treatment, click here.