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How To Get Rid of Tension in Your Neck

Neck tension is a common problem that many people experience due to various factors, including stress, poor posture, and prolonged periods of sitting. Fortunately, there are effective ways to alleviate neck tension, and in this blog, we’ll explore several strategies for relief.

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Understanding the causes of neck tension is crucial to prevent this discomfort.

Remedies include stretches and exercises, heat and ice therapy, and posture correction.

It is also essential to take a holistic approach by addressing anxiety and hydration. 

Did you know?
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs depict people massaging each other’s necks, highlighting that the quest for relief from neck tension has persisted across millennia.

Neck tension can arise from many different causes, ranging from poor posture to emotional stress. Fortunately, there are practical solutions beyond pain medications. In this blog, we explore the multifaceted nature of neck tension, delving into its causes, stretches and exercises for relief, and the therapeutic benefits of heat and ice therapy. We also address the mind-body connection, recognizing the role of anxiety in neck pain.

Let’s dive in!

What Causes Neck Tension?

Neck tension is commonly caused by poor posture, prolonged periods of sitting at a desk without proper ergonomics, and constantly looking down at your smartphone. In particular, constantly looking down at your smartphone also contributes to “text neck,” a neck tension symptom in which your neck muscles are strained due to the forward tilt of your head.

Another common cause of neck pain is sleeping in an awkward or unsupportive position.

Several comfortable sleep positions include sleeping on your side or back, so many stomach sleepers tend to wake up with neck tension. Also, using an improper pillow or sleeping with your neck at an uncomfortable angle can contribute to stiffness. If you strain your shoulders or upper back, the surrounding areas—such as your neck—will also be strained.

Another cause is physical conditions or an injury that can damage the muscles and ligaments in your neck. Other medical conditions such as arthritis, cervical spondylosis, or herniated discs also contribute to chronic neck tension.

Now that we have addressed these causes of neck tension, let’s consider tips on how to loosen tight muscles in your neck, beginning with stretches and exercises.

How To Release Neck Tension

The best way to relax your neck muscles is through stretches and exercises. The key is to remember to stretch slowly and gently, avoiding any forceful movements. Here are some neck tension exercises that you can try out:

1. Neck Tilt

  • Sit or stand with your spine straight.
  • Slowly tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear towards your shoulder.
  • Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, feeling the stretch on the opposite side of your neck.
  • Repeat on the other side. 

2. Neck Rotation

  • Keep your spine straight.
  • Slowly turn your head to one side, bringing your chin towards your shoulder.
  • Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, feeling the stretch along the side of your neck.
  • Repeat on the other side. 

3. Levator Scapulae Stretch

  • Sit or stand and tilt your head to one side.
  • Place the hand on the same side behind your back.
  • Use your opposite hand to pull your head towards your shoulder gently.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds, feeling the stretch along the back of your neck and shoulder.
  • Repeat on the other side. 

4. Upper Trapezius Stretch

  • Sit or stand with your spine straight.
  • Tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear towards your shoulder.
  • Place your hand on the same side on top of your head and gently apply pressure to enhance the stretch.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds, feeling the stretch along the side of your neck and shoulder.
  • Repeat on the other side. 

These are simple stretches that you can try for easy and on-the-go relief. When possible, it helps to pair these exercises with heat therapy, which has been shown to improve muscle relaxation. Let’s talk about this next!

How To Relax Muscles In The Neck

Heat therapy can be a beneficial and soothing approach to alleviating neck pain. Applying heat to your body widens the blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the affected area and delivering essential nutrients and oxygen. Increased blood flow also helps relax muscles, which leads to reduced muscle spasms and stiffness. This makes it an effective choice for conditions involving muscle tension or tightness, relieving discomfort.

There are simple homemade methods for heat therapy—for example, you can make a warm compress from a hot towel and place it on the affected area or take a hot shower while gently stretching your neck.

If you are looking for a sustainable hot compress, we recommend our Calmer heated neck wrap. The Calmer is gently weighted with tension-melting Terraclay™, allowing for a natural thermotherapeutic weight to soothe and loosen your neck muscles. You can warm the Calmer in the microwave (800-1000 watts) for 60 seconds inside the accompanying Terra Tote (for safety purposes), and apply it to your neck as needed; its ergonomic design molds to your neck to melt away tension.

Now, you may be wondering whether to use ice or heat for the tension in your neck. In the next section, we discuss whether or not ice therapy can also help with neck pain and stiffness.


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Can I Use Ice for Neck Pain?

Ice therapy, also known as cold therapy, can be beneficial for managing neck pain, especially when inflammation or acute injuries occur. Cold therapy helps constrict blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to the affected area. This can decrease inflammation, swelling, and pain associated with injuries or conditions causing neck pain. The numbing effect of the cold can also help with pain relief

You can make a cold compress by soaking a cloth in cold water or making an ice pack at home, then applying it to the affected area. Make sure to wrap your ice pack in a thin cloth or towel to prevent direct contact with the pack, as it can cause frostbite and skin damage if prolonged for more than 15-20 minutes.

If cold therapy is the relief you seek, you can also still use our Calmer heated neck wrap! Chill it in the freezer for at least an hour inside the Terra Tote. The Calmer is a versatile, safe, and sustainable alternative to conventional heating pads and ice packs made of rubber and plastic beads. The Calmer’s warmth is also great for soothing comfort, leading to feelings of comfort and relaxation.

That said, let’s look at the connection between your mental health and tension in your neck and upper body.

Can Anxiety Cause Neck Tension?

Yes! Emotional stress and anxiety can also manifest physically, resulting in muscle tension and stiffness in the neck and shoulders. Your body’s natural response to stress includes muscle contraction, contributing to neck tension. It’s essential to recognize that everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. You should experiment with different strategies and tailor your approach based on what resonates.

In general, deep breathing exercises help activate your body’s relaxation response - inhale slowly through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat several times to calm your nervous system.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) can also help with anxiety and neck pain relief; try tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups to help release tension in your neck.

For stress management, you can try engaging in mindfulness meditation to stay present and reduce anxiety. Focus on your breath or a calming mantra, allowing intrusive thoughts to pass without judgment. If anxiety persists or becomes overwhelming, consider seeking help and support from a mental health professional.

We’ve looked at causes of neck tension and strategies for relief, but there are also things you can do to prevent excessive neck pain. Let’s talk about these next!

How To Prevent Neck Pain

Here are some tips to try to steer clear of tension in your neck and upper body:

Posture Correction for Neck Pain

Correcting your posture is crucial for managing and preventing neck pain. When standing or sitting, start by keeping your spine in a neutral position - imagine a straight line running from your earlobes through your shoulders, hips, and down to your ankles. Try to keep your shoulders relaxed and aligned with your hips, and avoid hunching or rounding your shoulders forward. Strengthening your core muscles can contribute to overall postural stability, as a strong core supports your spine and helps maintain good posture.

Adjustments to your workstation can also be helpful! Adjust your chair, desk, and computer monitor to ensure your screen is at eye level and your feet are flat on the floor. Using a chair that properly supports your lower back is also very beneficial.

Better Nutrition and Hydration

A holistic approach that combines proper nutrition, hydration, and other lifestyle modifications can contribute to overall well-being and help manage neck pain more effectively.

Try out an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts have anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce inflammation associated with neck pain. Also, opt for magnesium-rich foods, such as leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, as magnesium is crucial in muscle function and relaxation.

Proper hydration is also essential for maintaining the health of your intervertebral discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae (small bones) in your spine. Dehydration can lead to reduced disc height and increased pressure on the neck, contributing to pain.


Lifestyle adjustments, stress management techniques, proper ergonomics, and regular exercise all play a role in alleviating and preventing neck tension. By weaving these practices into your daily life, you’ll find relief from neck pain and foster better holistic health.