I recently have had clients who came to see me because of unexplained pain or tightness in the neck, especially upon awakening. Sleeping wrong didn’t cause that pain in the neck. Painfully tight neck muscles on waking usually indicate a cumulative injury that finally reached the point of being noticed.
Tight, aching neck muscles have many potential causes - stress and posture while using the computer are two frequent contributors.
In addition to hurting and limiting your ability to turn or tilt your head, tight muscles on the side of your neck can compress the brachial nerve, which runs down your arm to your hand. A sharp pain shooting down your arm, numbness, and tingling in your hand signal nerve compression.
A simple neck stretch can help relax tight neck muscles, reducing pain and improving range of motion (ROM). Tip your chin toward your chest and tilt your head to the side as if to touch your ear to your shoulder. Hold that position for a count of 20, then repeat on the other side. Adding heat to your neck, either in the shower or by hot compress, increases the stretch’s effectiveness.
Try this stretch when your neck hurts before you reach for the aspirin or ibuprofen, and you may not need the pills or may need them less often. You can use this stretch several times a day with no ill effects, unlike medications.
Massage is another way to help tight muscles relax, reducing neck pain and improving your range of motion. A professional massage therapist can work neck muscles effectively in chair massage or as part of a full-body massage.