Having a sniff neck is one of the most uncomfortable and irritating conditions we face, but there are a number of ways to prevent a sniff neck, including sleeping properly, cutting back on gadget use, exercising, improving your posture, and many more.
What is Stiff Neck?
If you’ve ever woken up to an unexpected pain in your neck, preventing you from turning your head without experiencing a sharp, aching pain, then you’ve experienced the true misery of a stiff neck. At one point or another, everyone will get a sniff neck, but the reason for your suffering could be many different things. Stiff necks are essentially a muscle strain, normally in the levator scapula muscle, and due to its close connection to a number of nerve centers, and its proximity to the spine, this “pulled” muscle can be particularly painful. The causes of a stiff neck range from a sports injury or poor posture to excessive texting and sleeping on an old pillow. Any unusual or repetitive movement of the neck can cause this muscle to become inflamed, generating everything from regional pain to headaches and immobility.
There are many ways to treat a stiff neck, including most normal anti-inflammatory remedies, but ideally, you would be able to prevent these stiff necks before they ever occur. Fortunately, now that you know what a stiff neck is caused by, you can also guess some of the best preventative measures to avoid the condition in the first place. Now, let’s take a closer look at some great ways to prevent a stiff neck.
Ways to Prevent a Stiff Neck
Effective ways to prevent stiff neck include:
Get a Better Pillow
One of the most common, and seemingly unavoidable, causes of a stiff neck is poor sleeping posture. When you sleep, your neck basically remains in one position for hours at a time, so it makes sense that you would want that position to be comfortable, without straining the muscles of the neck. A good pillow that properly provides support should reduce any strain on your neck while you sleep. If you’re laying your head on an old, limp pillow, then there’s a good chance you’ll wake up with a stiff neck!
Improve your Posture
This may sound like it’s easier said than done, but posture is an important part of preventing a stiff neck. If you find yourself hunched over or walking without your head erect, you are putting constant strain on your neck muscles. Extended periods in this position will almost certainly give you a stiff neck. Consciously decide to improve your posture and roll back your shoulders as often as you can. There are discreet, wearable braces that you can purchase to help you improve posture, as well as ergonomic chairs that can help prevent stiff necks in these situations.
Cut Down on Device Use
In our modern world, it feels like everyone has a tablet or a smartphone, which means that billions of people are spending time staring at a screen int their hands. Hunching over to read an endless stream of notifications on your smartphone can be disastrous for your neck muscles, and is likely the most common cause of stiff necks in the past decade. Be aware of how much time you are spending staring down at your phone, and if you want to wake up with a stress-free neck, put the tablet down for a while!
Consider the Weight you Carry
Many people carry heavy bags or purses almost every day of their life, but they rarely consider switching shoulders. We become comfortable with a certain way of walking and existing in the world, which means putting consistent and uneven strain on our body. Be sure to alternate arms with your shoulder bag or purse, or get a backpack, which results in a much more even distribution of weight on your back.
Reduce Overall Stress
Stress levels can be a major factor behind stiff necks, primarily because when we are anxious or tense, our muscles naturally flex, and many people carry that stress in their shoulders and neck muscles. It’s often difficult to tell that you’re doing it, but chronic stress can wreak havoc on your neck. Try any one of the many relaxation techniques out there, including massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, dietary changes, or green tea. If you can flush out the stress hormones, you can probably flush out the pain of your stiff neck too!
Ease up on the Workouts
Some people experience a stiff neck as a result of repetitive or highly intense physical activity. Turning your head repeatedly can tire out the levator scapula muscle, resulting in a stiff neck the first day. For example, many swimmers complain of stiff necks due to repetitive turning of their head, and must apply various techniques to prevent this pain. For normal people, alternating workouts and exercising with proper form (e.g., avoiding neck strain), can help to prevent stiff necks in many cases.
Stretch Every Day
It is easy to ignore the importance of stretching, particularly if you’re not about to engage in exercise of some kind. However, on a daily basis, it is still a good idea to warm up the muscles and prepare yourself for a day of activity and unexpected movements. It is much more difficult to pull or strain a muscle if it has been sufficiently stretched. Starting and ending your day with a quick five-minute stretching session, including the neck/shoulder area, can do wonders for preventing a stiff neck!