Ease neck tension: what can be done?


Whether caused by psychological stress, bad postural positions in everyday life, or an accident – neck tension is a common complaint. Every second person suffers from neck pain once in their life. In really bad cases, sufferers can no longer move their head properly and the pain radiates into their arms or head. What provides short-term relief, and what helps alleviate neck tension in the long term?

Get rid of painful neck tension

In most cases, the pain comes from tight neck muscles. To get rid of the pain in the long term, it’s important to know the causes of neck pain and how to resolve them. Nevertheless, there are simple home remedies to provide immediate relief.

Symptoms of neck tension

  • reduced mobility
  • pain and hardened muscles
  • fatigue
  • visual impairment
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • noises in the ears
  • pain in the arms and legs

What helps with neck pain?

Neck pain is often triggered by muscle tension. The problem causing tense muscles or fascia is that the tissue isn't receiving a sufficient supply of blood. This means that in order to relieve neck tension it’s important to stimulate blood circulation. How? There are many possibilities – and the effect is greater when combined.

Professional massage or do-it-yourself

Massage is undoubtedly one of the best ways to relieve neck tension, as it reaches deep under the surface of the skin. You can also massage your neck yourself. Although a do-it-yourself neck massage isn't quite as effective as a professional massage, it’s easy to fit into your day.

Loosen a tense neck with movement

Exercise is still one of the best ways to get blood flowing to the muscles. At the same time, it can eliminate one of the main causes of neck pain: too little or one-sided movement. A full workout isn't always necessary. Even small movements and mobilisations relax the muscles. And an easy walk is enough to supply the neck muscles with blood and get them moving.

Rub in essential oils and ease tension

A popular remedy for tension is to rub the neck with essential oils. For example, arnica, lavender, camphor (not for pregnant women) and peppermint can be used for neck pain. Mix essential oils with carrier oils such as olive oil, jojoba oil or almond oil. They are excellent for massage and, as such, are applied directly to the skin. Add approx. 15 drops of the essential oil to 100 ml of carrier oil.

Heat for stiff neck, shoulders and back

Warmth from a poultice, hot water bottle or hot shower is a classic home remedy for easing neck tension. If available, the warmth from an infrared lamp penetrates a few millimetres below the skin layer. Use the lamp to irradiate certain tense parts of the neck.

Alternating temperature for blood circulation

Alternating showers also stimulate blood circulation and ease neck tension. This is done by showering the body with cold and hot water alternately. Although often used on the legs, many people find alternating showers on the neck rather unpleasant. Instead of alternating showers, you can also alternate cold and hot pads. These can be applied directly to the source of pain.

Kinesio tape to support the neck

Elastic tape applied in a wavy pattern is said to stimulate blood circulation and activate pain and temperature receptors. This can be used, for example, to improve blood flow to hardened areas such as a tense neck or to provide support and thus relieve pressure.

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Treating the causes of neck tension

In order to 'get rid' of neck tension in the long term or to prevent repeated recurrence, it is important to know the causes and triggers. Bad postural positions, for example, can be avoided by neck exercises.

Avoid neck pain triggers

  • Avoid cold and draughts.
  • Avoid or reduce stress: it may sound trivial, but stress is one of the main causes of all types of muscle tension.
  • A one-sided posture at your desk, in the car, on the assembly line or in work that involves reaching up causes tension. Good ergonomics at the workplace help relieve the neck and prevent painful neck tension.
  • Have your eyesight tested by an optician or ophthalmologist.

Exercises that strengthen the cervical spine

One-sided positions 'under-exert' the cervical spine on the one hand, but also over-exert the spine as it is then held in the same position for hours. Specific exercises can be done to prevent tension and help relieve pain.

Painkillers for neck tension: when is this a sensible move?

It can be sensible to take painkillers as a 'kick-start', i.e. to break the vicious circle, so to speak. This is because we often tense up even more when we have pain, making the blood supply to the tissue even weaker. When suffering from severe pain, taking a one-off painkiller can help. However, this should only be a short-term solution and should ideally be combined with actions that treat the neck pain in the long term and resolve the cause. The better solution is to use natural painkillers, such as essential oils.

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