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How to relieve neck pain

Updated: Jul 26

If your primary workspace is at a desk or you spend long periods staring at a computer monitor, you've probably experienced neck pain before.

Common causes can be stress, tension, spinal injury, muscle strain, and osteoarthritis, and a multitude of other conditions that can contribute to neck pain. Sports injuries are another common cause.

As neck pain can affect your daily routine if not treated appropriately, this article will provide information that can lead you in the right direction to alleviate neck pain.

To help you find relief, this article aims to provide valuable information on effectively alleviating neck pain.

Whether you're dealing with tension headaches or stiffness at the base of your skull, we'll explore practical methods like applying pressure to the neck's base, using heat or ice packs, considering massage and gentle stretches, evaluating and adjusting your sleeping conditions, exploring the use of pain relievers (under professional guidance), and the potential benefits of physiotherapy.

How to relieve neck pain at base of skull

If you suffer from tension headaches or are experiencing high amounts of stress, you may find that pain may develop at the base of the skull.

Applying pressure with your fingers to the back of your neck/base of the skull may help in relieving any tension and pain that is present. A rolled towel placed behind your neck might also provide some benefit.

How to relieve neck pain and stiffness

If you're dealing with neck pain and a stiff neck, there are many ways to help relieve pain and assist your neck muscles. Some of these strategies to alleviate neck pain include:

Apply heat or ice

If you have a strained neck/torn muscle, you might like to apply ice for the first 48-72 hours following the injury. After this timeframe, or if you’ve woken up one day with a sore neck, you may find that heat is effective in reducing pain. Heat can be applied via a heat pack, or even in a warm bath or shower.


Receiving a massage from a trained professional can assist in relieving symptoms experienced with neck pain. Gentle stretches can also be performed and be effective in reducing pain and preventing stiffness.

If a trained professional can gently stretch your neck, it can relieve painful areas and prevent neck stiffness.

Changing sleeping conditions

Have you thought about the way you've been sleeping? It may be contributing to acute pain more than you think. Perhaps your pillows are too thin, or your mattress is doing more harm than good for your neck joints and posture.

Try sleeping on your back as opposed to your side or consider purchasing higher quality items such as body pillows, feather-down pillows, a comforter, a mattress pad, or a softer foam mattress. You may be shocked at how the smallest of changes can help you fall asleep.

Pain relievers

Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications may be a treatment option.

However, always consult a doctor or healthcare professional before taking over-the-counter pain relievers.


Your GP may refer you to physiotherapy if you struggle with mobility or strength in your neck muscles, particularly after a severe injury. Chronic pain management will help you to re-train and strengthen[7] your muscles to avoid neck pain in the future.

Your physiotherapist will conduct an assessment to determine what the likely cause of your neck pain is, and once this has been established, create an individualised treatment plan specific to you in order to get you back to normal sooner.

Ergonomic workspace

Investing in an ergonomic work area can mitigate the causes of neck pain.

Investing in an adjustable desk, high-quality office chair that is adjusted accordingly and an ergonomic mouse and keyboard can all influence how our neck’s feel at the end of the working day.

Ensure that your computer is at eye level and taking regular breaks from extended periods of remaining stationary to further reduce the likelihood of neck pain developing whilst working.

Reduce stress and anxiety

Mental health has the capacity to influence physical health. Hence it is important to pay attention to how your body is feeling and implement appropriate measures to take care of yourself when you are starting to feel your physical health is being affected.

Listening to meditation music, breathing exercises, or watching your favourite TV show are all ways in which external stresses can be reduced and promote positive mental wellbeing.

When should you see a doctor?

In some circumstances, you may need to seek urgent care for moderate pain.

If you've been in a car accident or had a recent injury, have pain spreading to arms and legs, are experiencing any numbness or weak muscles, or if neck pain persists, it's vital to always consult a doctor or trained practitioner. Look after yourself.

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