Is your neck being...well, a real pain in the neck? If neck spasms are giving you trouble, you may want to consider these neck spasm exercises and treatment options to improve your range of motion and relieve your pain. The right neck spasm exercises can not only improve your range of motion and alleviate pain the moment but can also reduce the likelihood of you experiencing problems in the future. Check out these tips to get back on track.
What Causes Neck Spasm?
A neck spasm can be caused by a long list of issues. Typically, neck spasms are accompanied by muscle tightness, sharp or dull aches and pains, and stiffness. Generally, a neck spasm will go away on its own, but that’s not always the case. If your issues linger, you’ll need to seek a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. These issues are often caused by a mild strain or sprain. When muscles are torn or overworked, a muscle will tighten and spasm to protect itself from stretching too far.
Similarly, an injury to a ligament close by can cause a reflex spasm in which the non-injured muscles spontaneously tighten to protect themselves. Spasms can also be caused by fatigue. In rare cases, they can be caused by issues like herniated discs, peripheral neuropathy, or facet joint osteoarthritis. If you have any kind of mechanical dysfunction, such as a bone spur or poor posture, this, too, can cause your neck to spasm. Even something as simple as stress or anxiety can cause neck spasms! So, you'll need to consider all your risk factors to truly determine the root cause.
How Do You Get Rid of Neck Spasms Fast?
If you're currently struggling with spasms, there are a few things you can do to clear them up. Start by taking some NSAIDs to reduce the inflammation in the neck muscles, and ensure you are fully hydrated.
Then, you can try stretching or massaging the muscles. We'll talk about other options later on, but the best way to get rid of discomfort is by performing a few neck spasm exercises. Let's discuss some of our favorites.
Credit The Knockout Project
The Best Exercises to Relieve Neck Pain
These neck exercises will help you relieve neck pain - but can also be used to treat pain in other places, such as the head, shoulders, and upper back. Give them a try but be sure to ease into each exercise slowly. If you have any pain, stop and see your doctor.
1. Neck Rotation
If you’re trying to get quick relief from neck pain or spasms, neck rotation is one of the best exercises you can do. You’ll start by sitting upright in a firm chair or standing up straight. Keep your chin level as you turn your head to the left. Hold your head there for 20 to 30 seconds. Then, turn your head to the right. Hold it there for an additional 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat up to four times for each side.
2. Neck Rotation with Flexion
A variation on the neck rotation exercise you can try is the neck rotation with flexion. In this exercise, you’ll turn your head to the left, holding your hands together, clasped, behind your head. Allow your arms to draw your chin to your chest. This flexion will tilt your head toward the ground, putting an emphasized stretch on your neck muscles and getting you more bang for your buck. Hold the position for 15 to 20 seconds, then repeat three times before performing the same motion on the right side.
3. Upper Trapezius Stretch
Sit in a firm chair or stand upright, but be sure to maintain a straight posture throughout this entire exercise. Begin by relaxing your shoulders, keeping your shoulder down as you lean away. You can hold onto your chair or your thighs for balance if you’d like. Dip your head toward the shoulder and keep it there for about 30 seconds. Your head will stretch the muscles in your neck with its weight. For added effectiveness, you can put your arm behind your back, using the arm that is opposite of the direction you are dipping your head. Repeat this two to four times for each side.
4. Levator Scapula Stretch
This neck exercise will require you to sit in a chair with a firm back. If you don’t have a chair available, you can also just stand up straight. Slowly tilt your head toward your shoulder. Turning your head to look down toward your armpit, dip your head slightly forward.
Allow your head’s weight to gently stretch your neck. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds, then release. Repeat but look toward the other shoulder. Repeat the exercise up to four times for each side.
5. Simple Chin Tuck
Lay down for this exercise, ideally on the floor or another firm surface. Place a rolled-up blanket or towel under your neck for support with your head touching the floor. Draw your chin up toward the front of your neck. Hold it there for six seconds, then relax for ten seconds. Repeat this exercise 10 to 12 times for relief.
6. Forward Neck Flexion
Another simple neck exercise you can try to relieve pain is the forward neck flexion. For this exercise, you will again either sit in a firm chair or stand. Allow your head to fall forward. Hold it there for up to 30 seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat.
7. Scalene Stretch
The scalene stretch is another one you can do for almost instantaneous relief from spasms and pain. It will stretch the neck muscles that attach to your ribs. Begin this stretch while sitting in an upright position, with your hands clasped behind your back. Lower your right shoulder, tipping your head in the opposite direction, to the left. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds, then return to the starting position and repeat the stretch but on the other side. Do this on both sides at least three times.
8. Scapular Squeeze
The scapular squeeze, also known as the scapular stretch, can be done while standing or while sitting. Begin with your arms at your side, then push your shoulders together as if you were attempting to squeeze your shoulders together. Hold the stretch for five seconds and complete three sets of ten repetitions.
9. Thoracic Extension
This neck exercise is somewhat like a sit-up that takes place from a seated position. Although it won’t do much to work your abs, it will work wonders for your neck pain and spasms. You will sit in a chair with your arms folded behind your head. Arch back and look toward the ceiling. Repeat this move ten times and again several times throughout the day for ongoing relief.
Should You Add Resistance To These Exercises?
All of these are great exercises to strengthen your neck muscles. Just performing most of these with bodyweight will go a long way in preventing or treating neck pain or spasm. But, at a certain point, you'll want to add some resistance - otherwise, you won't continue progressing. You'll hit a wall with your training. This is something a lot of people aren't too sure how to proceed on - do you need a special neck machine? Youcan invest in one of these for sure, but just using a neck harness with resistance bands is likely more than enough to add some stimulus and continue progressing.
Iron Neck has some of the best neck weight harnesses and resistance loop bands around - the harnesses, in particular, are top-rated, with flexible and breathable Neoprene fabric for comfort, stability, and reliability. If you’re still performing all of your neck spasm exercises and treatments without the help of resistance bands and harnesses, trust us - you’re missing out! You could be doing so much more to aid in your recovery or injury prevention.
Other Home Remedies to Loosen Neck Muscles
Aside from performing these neck spasm exercises, there are a few other things you can consider doing to manage the symptoms of your spastic muscles.
In addition to stretching, massage is one of the best things you can do for relief. Massage therapy will help your entire body relax, offering relief from tight muscles and neck pain. By placing pressure on the stiffest, most tender points in your neck, you can relieve tension from the stressed-out muscles and restore your range of motion in your neck.
NSAIDs like naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil) shouldn’t be your first line of defense when it comes to treating spasms. They won’t address the underlying issues causing the spasms in the first place - like muscle tightness or injury - but they can offer temporary relief from inflammation and pain. The benefit of using NSAIDs is that they ask quickly but you’ll need to make sure you read the warning labels first, particularly if you are taking some other form of medication.
Cold therapy will help relieve local inflammation, reducing the pain you are experiencing. Just grab an ice pack or fill a plastic bag with ice, then press it on the painful spot on your neck. Just don’t leave it on the spot for too long, as it can cause skin damage.
Heat therapy is another option. Apply a heating pad to your neck, switched on at a low setting, to the area of your neck that is most tender.
If you don’t have a heating pad, an alternative is to simply stand in the shower with a gentle flow of warm water cascading onto your neck. It will increase blood flow and soothe your pain. Remember, when applying any kind of heat or cold to your skin, limit applications to 15 minutes every two hours to reduce the risk of skin damage.
When your neck is spasming, it might be difficult for you to rest - but relaxation is key when it comes to ridding yourself of spasms. If you are able, lie on your back with a cervical pillow or neck roll beneath your head. Put a pillow beneath your knees and listen to a podcast or calming music to help you relax. The stress will melt away!
Call Your Doctor
Most spasms will go away on their own and are typically the result of sudden (but minor) muscle strains). They should clear up within less than a week. However, if your pain lingers or gets worse, it’s a good idea to get some medical help. This could indicate a more serious underlying problem, like a herniated disc. If the pain lasts more than a week or becomes more severe, call your doctor as soon as you can. The same goes for spasms that are accompanied by other symptoms, like nausea, arm weakness or numbness, dizziness, or headache.
How Long Does it Take for Neck Spasms to Go Away?
Left untreated for long enough, spasms can turn into serious tension headaches that linger for days. These can last as long as a week in severe cases. It’s not common for spasms to last any longer than this, though, and most of the time (especially by trying the stretches and treatment options listed above), you’ll find that a neck spasm only lasts for a few moments or hours. However, in very rare cases, a bad neck spasm could linger for more than a week. In that case, seeking physical therapy or the advice of a doctor is recommended.
To get rid of neck spasms fast, give the exercises and treatment options above a try. You’ll be glad you did! By performing these, you won't just be actively treating any pain and tightness in your neck and surrounding muscles - you'll also be decreasing your likelihood of experiencing a neck spasm flare-up in the future. Invest in your health today, and grab the supplies you need to start performing the exercises above -you'll be well on your way to better health!