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How to Relieve a Stiff Neck?

Lack of exercise and excessive sitting can cause aches and pains and tighten the body. UniSport's masseuse Kaisa Halminen gives tips on how to to relieve those tense muscles yourself.

Do you easily get stuck in bad working positions for a long time? Now is the time to start practising at-home self-care and utilizing any known home remedies and diy methods. So collect all your massage tools, heated pillows, spike mats, foam rollers, balls etc.  from the back of your cupboard from collecting dust!

A ball, for example a tennis ball is good to keep on your workspace within arms reach. During your workday you can use the ball to roll your feet, palms and forearm.

Heat relaxes and softens muscles. A heated pillow can be used whilst working and simultaneously the weight of the pillow reminds you that it’s not so easy to elevate your shoulders. During massages heat is used as a precare. However, heat in itself will help which is one of the reasons applying heat is an excellent and affordable self-care mechanism.

After applying heat you can stretch or self-massage tight muscles. They loosen better warm, rather than cold. Make sure to do any stretch/massage on both sides, even if only the other side feels sore or tight.

Let's start!

  1. Warm the shoulders with an oat pillow or heat wrap.
  2. Turn your head a few times to the right and to the left.
  3. Roll your shoulders a few times in both directions.
  4. Your trapezius stretches by tilting your head to the side. You can push your opposite hand towards the floor to enhance the exercise
Lämmitä hartioita lämpötyynyllä, käännä päätä muutaman kerran hitaasti vasemmalle ja oikealle, pyöritä hartioita muutaman kerran molempiin suuntiin, nosta olkaa hiukan ja pusertele epäkäslihasta.


  1. Slightly lift your shoulder and press your trapezius .
  2. Take your left hand and hold your right shoulder. Slide your fingers towards your collarbone whilst turning your head to the right. Do this motion to your whole trapezius until the base of your skull.
  3. Massage the base of your skull; first with your finger tips. Take your chin towards your chest. Press your fingertips to your base of the skull up until the both sides of your cervical spine. Lift your chin up and down along the movement. Slide your fingers to the back of your neck, from up to down.
  4. Stretch your levator scapulae (the muscle that lifts your shoulder blades). Press your chin gently towards your armpits. Stretch your opposite hand down simultaneously to enhance the stretch.
Pusertele epäkäslihasta, hiero kallonpohjaa sormenpäillä, vedä leukaa sisään ja paina päätä kohti kainaloa

A forward bent seating position causes problems for many in your neck-shoulder region. The head is heavy and so it tends to bend forward. Many surface muscles are overworked, so it is important to strengthen your intrinsic, meaning deep, cervical spine muscles.

One-minute of exercise to strengthen the cervical spine

Työnnä päätä suoraan taakse, palauta eteen. Työnnä otsaa ja kättä vastakkain toisiaan kohden. Tee sama sivuttaissuunnassa molemmin puolin. Lopuksi työnnä takaraivoa seinää kohden.
  • Push your head backwards as far as it goes. The chin shouldn’t be moving up or down at all. Keep your head in this position and slowly count to ten (figures 1-2). The head moves several centimetres to a better position (figure 3).
  • Now that your head is in a better position, strengthen your deep muscles using static holds. Push your palm opposite to your forehead. Both your palm and forehead should be pushing at a maximum. This movement should be felt in the front of your neck. Count to ten slowly and release (figure 4)
  • Do this movement at every side of your cervical spine: Your right temple and right palm are pushing opposite, after which your left temple and left palm (figures 4-5). Your palm isn’t supportive enough for the back of your head, so stand against the wall and push the back of your head towards the wall, slowly counting to ten (figure 6).

This exercise should be done every day for the rest of your life, our head will never cease to be heavy!


Text, instructions and photos:
Kaisa Halminen