Give your neck a gentle stretch
There are a number of neck exercises that can help to relieve the pain of a stiff neck. Shelly Coffman, a physical therapist at 360° Sports Medicine and Spine Therapy in Portland, OR, recommends the following to get blood flowing and relieve inflammation: Lie down flat, with a rolled towel or partially-inflated beach ball behind your neck. Rotate your head slowly as if saying “no.” Then nod your head slowly as if saying “yes.” Do two sets each of 20 reps, two to three times a day. Another move: While sitting in a chair, bring one arm across your body toward the opposite hip and hold that hand with your other hand. Keeping your head and body facing forward, bend your ear toward the same shoulder as your hands. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Repeat three to five times on each side, once or twice a day. Another chair exercise: While sitting in a chair, grasp the bottom of the chair with one hand. Tilt your ear toward the opposite shoulder, using your other hand to gently pull your head down to increase the stretch. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds. Repeat three times.
Apply hot and cold compresses
Applying heat to your stiff neck helps to relax the muscles and bring fresh blood to the sore spot, Coffman says. You can get the heat you need with a heating pad set on low or a warm washcloth. Alternating with a cold compress helps to numb the pain and bring down inflammation. You can alternate between hot and cold for up to 10 minutes at a time of each, several times a day and up to every hour if you’re experiencing a lot of pain. If you are feeling a lot of pain—not just stiffness—stick with the ice, cautions Coffman. Heat can make pain worse by increasing inflammation. Try these home remedies for muscle soreness.