3 Tricks for Ending Neck Pain

You don't have to live with neck discomfort. Learn simple adjustments you can make to your daily routine to feel more at ease.

man rubbing back of neck

Medically reviewed in March 2022

Pain in the neck is, well, a pain in the neck. And some two-thirds of us will experience it at some point, says orthopedic spine surgeon Samuel Cho, MD, of Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

We turned to leading experts for their best ways to conquer three common causes of neck pain.

Cause 1: Tight shoulders
When the muscles that control your shoulders tense up, they pass stress along to your neck, says physical therapist Rick Olderman, author of the Fixing You book series. Your trapezius (that's the muscle that connects your shoulders to your neck) is a particular culprit here.

Happily, there's an easy way to stretch it out: the side neck stretch. But don't stop there. Your shoulder blades can also get in on the pain-causing action, especially if you spend the day working at a computer. Going hours without raising your arms allows gravity to push down on your shoulder blades, causing them to tense up, says Olderman. Try this back of the neck stretch for some sweet release.

Cause 2: Poor posture
It's all too easy to succumb to "turtlehead"—think head forward, chin jutting out, shoulders rounded—when much of your day is spent slumped in a chair. Not only can that stress your neck, but it can also weaken the muscles in your neck and shoulders, says physical therapist Mike Clark, DPT.

Cause 3: The wrong pillow
You spend nearly a third of your life snoozing, and how you sleep is bound to have an effect on your body. One common problem is sleeping on a pillow that isn't doing all it could to give your neck the support it needs. It can help to shop for a pillow—and mattress—that properly supports your body in the way you sleep most often, whether you are a side, stomach, or back sleeper.

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