Neck pain or stiff neck | Cause and treatment with 4 exercises

Neck pain and a stiff neck are common conditions. Neck pain often occurs in combination with headache or shoulder pain.

I will explain why this happens and what you can do about it. I will explain exactly what the cause of your neck pain is based on your symptoms and how you can remedy your stiff neck yourself with several simple exercises.

The exercises focus on improving the mobility of your neck and relaxing and strengthening your neck muscles.

So read on quickly.

Neck pain or stiff neck | Cause and treatment with 4 exercises

Neck anatomy

To properly explain the cause of your neck pain, it is important to know how your neck is constructed.

Your neck consists of 7 cervical vertebrae, which form a natural arch. The lower part is a bit more convex and the upper part forms a small concave. This places a greater burden on the lower cervical vertebrae than on the upper cervical vertebrae. This is where the first wear of the cartilage occurs.

There are intervertebral discs between your cervical vertebrae. These protect the vertebrae and absorb pressure. A nerve leaves the neck between 2 cervical vertebrae and runs into the arm.

Your neck is surrounded by several muscles that allow you to hold your head upright and turn it. The best-known muscle is the monkshood muscle or trapezius.

Rotation of your neck mainly takes place in the upper part and extension of your neck in the lower cervical vertebrae.

neck pain

Neck pain causes

There are 3 common causes for neck pain. These are stress, overload, or an accident. All these causes put more strain on the joints and muscles in your neck and therefore become stiff more quickly.

The structure that probably causes your complaints can often be determined based on the symptoms. This also allows your treatment to be more specific.

The most common form of neck pain is a stiff neck. When the rotation of the neck is stiff, the problem is in the upper part of the neck. When stretching the neck is stiff, and the problem is at the bottom.

A stiff neck can be caused by a muscle or by a joint. If your neck pain is on the left side and turning to the left is also limited, the problem is probably a muscle. You can check this further by turning your head and pressing your hand against your cheek. Now you switch off the muscle and there is only pressure in the joint. If this is still painful, your stiff neck is caused by a joint. If the pain is now gone, the muscle is the problem. Neck pain and a stiff neck are especially experienced after sleeping. This is because your head has been still for a long time, causing your muscles and joints to become stiff. Because you are stiff when you stand up, you experience the most neck pain.

The most common muscle that causes neck pain is the trapezius or monk’s cap muscle. This muscle runs from your skull to your shoulder. When this muscle is stiff and painful, it can cause radiation to your ear and forehead.

A stiff joint, especially your upper cervical vertebra, also causes a headache, but more at the back of your head. A stiff joint can also cause pain in your shoulder or shoulder blade. When you turn your head and hold it for a moment, you will slowly feel the pain radiating to your shoulder. This mainly happens with a stiff joint in the lower part of your neck.

Finally, a stiff joint can cause the space between the cervical vertebrae to narrow and the nerve that runs between them to become pinched. This causes radiance in your arm, sometimes even into your hand. The appearance depends on the level of restraint. The lower in your neck, the further the radiance is felt in the hand and fingers.

Another cause of neck pain is incorrect posture. When you sit with your head too far forward, gravity pulls on your head, causing your head to tend to fall. To prevent this, your neck muscles have to work harder. This can lead to overload. In addition, the lower part of your neck becomes overloaded and stiff. This makes it more difficult for you to look up. In addition, this leads to an overload of the small muscles in your neck that are attached to your skull. This can lead to a headache in the back of your head and even a light-headed feeling.

Fortunately, all these neck pain symptoms can be remedied with several simple exercises.

I will now explain the treatment of neck pain and stiff neck below.

Neck pain or stiff neck | Cause and treatment with 4 exercises

Neck pain treatment with 4 exercises

To effectively treat your neck pain, it is necessary to address all possible aspects that may contribute to your neck pain.

It is important to stretch your neck muscles, to improve the mobility of your neck, to train your neck muscles, and to improve your posture.

You can also massage your neck muscles yourself or keep them warm with a hot crème. You can also loosen your upper back using a backstretcher. You lie on this, which stretches your upper back. This places less strain on your neck and lower back and can reduce neck pain and back pain.

It also helps to try to reduce stress by taking a stress-reducing supplement and exercising more. When you are physically fitter, stress has less influence on your body.

I am now going to describe the different exercises to relieve your neck pain.

Neck pain or stiff neck | Cause and treatment with 4 exercises

Neck pain exercise 1: Improve the mobility of your neck

The first exercise you have to perform helps to improve the mobility of your neck. When you move your neck around, your neck vertebrae glide into each other.

But sometimes this mechanism doesn’t work as it should. Making a sudden movement, sitting, or sleeping in a poor position can cause this to happen. That is how you get a stiff neck.

Because the joints don’t move as easily as they should, your neck muscles have to pull harder to move your neck. That’s where the pain comes from. The exercise below treats this primary aspect of neck pain.

Perform the exercise like this:

  • Wrap a towel around your neck
  • Take with your left hand the right side of the towel and with your right hand the left side
  • Now lift the hand that is in front up until the towel is at the same height as your cheek
  • Now pull with your arm and the towel your head in full rotation to the side
  • Repeat this ten times and then change to the opposite side by changing your hands
  • Finally, grasp the towel normally and lift your arms, and look up at the same time

You can also see how to perform the exercise in this video.

Perform the exercise at least twice a day. Rotate your head as far as you can. It’s okay when it hurts. That’s because you stretch the limit of your neck at this point. That way, you’ll improve mobility.

neck pain exercise 1 improve the mobility of your neck

Neck pain exercise 2: Improving neck stretching

The second exercise is aimed at improving the extension of your neck. Because you can stretch your neck better, you can also sit upright better. This puts less strain on your neck muscles and makes them less stiff.

This exercise also helps against pain in your upper back and, in combination with exercise 4, can also lead to fewer dizziness complaints.

The exercise goes as follows:

  • Place a rolled-up towel on your neck
  • Grab the towel on both sides with your hand and pull it tight
  • Now move your head up so that you are looking at the floorboard
  • At the same time, move your arms straight up so that they guide your neck movement
  • Keep tension on your neck with the towel
  • Now move back down with your head and the towel
  • Repeat this 10 times
    Do this twice a day

You can also see how to perform the exercise in this video.

Repeat the exercise 2 times a day. Perform it so that you feel the maximum stretch. It may hurt a bit, as long as the neck pain itself does not worsen afterward.

Neck pain exercise 2: Improving neck stretching

Neck pain exercise 3: Stretch your neck muscles

The final neck pain exercises reduce the tension in your neck muscles. These are the muscles that run over your shoulder towards the back of your head. They are also the primary cause of tension headaches.

Sitting up straight and training these muscles reduces the overload already, but stretching them reduces the pain caused by these muscles even more.

You can perform the exercise like this:

  • Place your hand on your head
  • Pull your head sideways
  • Also, rotate your head to the same side until you feel the maximum stretch
  • Hold this position for 20 seconds
  • Repeat three times on both sides

You can see how to perform the exercise in this video.

Repeat this exercise several times a day. You can’t do it too often.

Neck pain exercise 3: Stretch your neck muscles

Neck pain exercise 4: Improve your sitting posture

When the endurance and strength of your deep flexor muscles improve, sitting up straight for a long time will be much easier.

When you sit up straight, your head is in the same line as the rest of your body. That prevents gravity from pulling your head down. It reduces the tension in your neck muscles which reduces neck pain.

Having a proper desk setup is essential for a good sitting posture because you often sit at your desk most of the day when working. So make sure you work in a healthy environment.

Secondly, you have to sit up straight with your chin pulled in a little bit. It prevents forward head posture, which is a risk factor for neck pain.

You can see the difference in the sitting position in the picture.

At first, this posture feels weird and uncomfortable but when you train it consistently, your body adjusts and it feels natural eventually.

Try to train and control your posture as often as possible during the day.

neck pain exercise 4 improve your sitting posture


As you can see, you have many options to reduce your neck pain. You have to take action on every point for maximum results. If you have any questions left after reading this article, feel free to send me an e-mail.

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