The Common Causes of Tightening in the Neck and What to Do About It

The Common Causes of Tightening in the Neck and What to Do About It

Your neck supports your head and protects the nerves that transport information to the rest of your body. This highly complex and flexible body part includes the seven vertebrae that make the top portion of your spine (called the cervical spine). Your neck has an incredible level of functionality, but it’s also subject to a great deal of stress.

Tightening in neck

An uncomfortable tightening feeling in your neck is different from the sharp or severe pain that you would feel after an injury such as whiplash or a condition such as a pinched nerve.

Tightening in the neck might be described as a combination of neck tension, stiffness, soreness, pressure, and, yes, tightness.

What’s causing tightening in my neck?

The tightening discomfort could be triggered by a number of causes including:

Your posture

Your neck supports your head, and the average human head weighs about 10.5 pounds. If your posture is poor, the neck muscles are required to work in inefficient ways to support the weight of your head. This imbalance can lead to a feeling of tightness in your neck.

Your computer

If you spend long hours sitting in front of a computer, your arms and head will be positioned toward the front of the rest of the body for extended periods of time, causing the cervical muscles to contract. This can lead to tightness in the neck and, eventually, to pain.

Your phone

If you are hunched over your phone checking social media, playing games or watching streaming video, you might eventually notice tightness in your neck, which is called text neck.

Your purse

Using a shoulder strap to carry a heavy purse, briefcase, or travel luggage can put an uneven strain on your neck muscles which can lead to the feeling of tightness.

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Your sleep habits

Try to sleep with your head and neck aligned with the rest of your body. Consider sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees and avoid pillows that elevate your neck too much.

Your TMJ

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder is typically associated with jaw and facial discomfort, but it can affect the neck as well.

Your stress

Psychological stress can cause tension in your neck, giving it a tightening feeling.

Your job

If your job requires you to perform repetitive movements with your arms and upper body, it may affect the muscles of your neck. An early sign of the impact over time can be a feeling of tightening.

Managing tightening in the neck

To help relax the muscles that might be contributing to the tightening in your neck, there are some behavioral adjustments you can easily make, including:

  • Relax. If you your neck starts to tighten up, try relaxation techniques such as meditation, tai chi, massage, and controlled deep breathing.
  • Move. Do you drive long distances or spend long periods of time working at your computer? Periodically stretch your shoulders and neck and take frequent breaks to stand up and move.
  • Change your work environment. Your chair should be adjusted so your knees are slightly lower than your hips and your computer monitor should be at eye level.
  • Get in line. Whether you are sitting or standing, try to keep your shoulders in a straight line over your hips while, at the same time, keeping your ears directly over your shoulders.
  • Get wheels. When you travel, use wheeled luggage.
  • Stick a pin in it. Actually, a needle. Results from some studies have indicated that, although more research is needed, acupuncture might help with some types of muscular discomfort, including neck tension.
  • Stop smoking. We all know that smoking is bad for your health. You might not know that, according to the Mayo Clinic, smoking can heighten your risk of having neck pain.
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