Tension Neck Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

You’re likely quite familiar with neck and shoulder pain. It may even be so constant that you don’t even think about it regularly unless it flares up. Or perhaps you’re always in pain; it’s more common than you might think. So, what is tension neck syndrome? You might not have realized there’s a name for what you’re experiencing. In addition to exploring this condition, we’ll also look at risk factors, self-treatment, and home remedies to help with your neck and shoulder pain. 

What is Tension Neck Syndrome?

The name is very descriptive if you’re wondering, “What is tension neck syndrome?”. This term describes general tension and pain in the neck and shoulders. The most commonly involved muscle is the trapezius muscle, which runs up the neck, down the mid back, and across the shoulders. The sore and likely tender trigger point where the neck and shoulder meet is part of the trapezius. 

Types of tension neck syndrome include:

  1. Trapezius myalgia

  2. Muscular rheumatism

  3. Posture-related neck pain

  4. Tension myalgia

  5. Fibrositis

  6. Myofascial syndrome

  7. Cervical strain (whiplash)

Tension neck syndrome can range from mild and manageable to severe, which can lead to loss of function of the neck, shoulder, or arm. Pain in one area, such as the neck, can radiate away from the source into other parts of the body, like the shoulders. With tension neck syndrome, muscles can be tight, sore, stiff, sensitive, knotted, or have stabbing, burning, or throbbing sensations. Tingling and numbness are also common and can radiate into the arms and hands. Pain can be localized to one area or a side of the body. Headaches and muscle spasms are also common results of tension neck syndrome. 

Who is at Risk of Tension Neck Syndrome?

Both desk workers and physical laborers are at risk of developing neck tension syndrome. Here are some common risk factors:

  1. If you work long periods with your hands above shoulder level.

  2. If you use repetitive motions with your hands and wrists, such as typing.

  3. If you use your shoulders by lifting up and to the sides.

  4. If you have rigid or restricted neck and head posture for extended periods of time.

  5. If you’re holding something and using the neck and shoulder muscles.

  6. If you use hand tools over your head, such as a mechanic might.

  7. If you have an incorrect posture while sleeping.

  8. If you suffered a sudden impact from a car accident or a fall.

  9. If you’re under severe stress or experiencing depression and/or anxiety.

  10. If you lean forward while working at a computer.

  11. If your computer monitor is at the wrong height.

  12. If your chair lacks proper back support.

  13. If you use a keyboard that doesn’t support your forearms and elbows.

  14. If you’re tilting your head down to read papers or a screen. 

Treatment of Tension Neck Syndrome

In this section, we’ll explore treatments for tension neck syndrome. 

  • An effective, low-cost option for self-treatment is BioFunctional Health Solutions advanced self-treatment program, YouMari. Have you ever been in pain and wished for a massage therapist and physical therapist to materialize in your home? Well, with YouMari, that’s precisely what you have. 

YouMari takes you through a thorough assessment of your issues and identifies areas of pain, loss of function, and strength. You’ll also tell YouMari what treatments you’ve tried (medications, chiropractic work, etc.) and what kind of pain you’re experiencing (dull, burning, throbbing, etc.). Next, YouMari creates a customized self-treatment plan of stretching for tight, sore muscles, exercises to build strength, balance, good posture, and self-massage to relieve pain and trigger points. Not sure you’ll know what to do? Each stretch, exercise, and massage technique comes with a video to guide you through it safely and effectively.  YouMari also offers helpful tools like a calendar and equipment lists to help you get started and stay consistent. With YouMari, you can find relief in the comfort of your own home. And, since you’re doing it on your own, it’s easy to do it every day, which will give you the best results. You can use YouMari in conjunction with other treatments, including physical therapy, massage, chiropractic work, and home remedies. And many of the exercises can be taken to the workplace if you need to take a stretching break. To explore the options YouMari offers or get started immediately, please visit YouMari today!

  • One way to effectively treat your tension neck syndrome is to make accommodations at work wherever possible.
    1. Take breaks if you can while doing anything aggravating your neck and shoulders, such as typing, tilting your head to hold a phone to your ear, or using hand tools overhead. These breaks are an excellent opportunity for light stretching or exercises to ease muscular pain and tension.

    2. If you’re lifting and carrying heavy items, take lighter loads over more trips if possible.

    3. Use a drill adapter or other tool hacks to ease the strain on hands, arms, and shoulders.

    4. Ask for other ergonomic support like wrist supports, a more ergonomically designed chair for office workers, or a worktable with adjustable height so employees can work more comfortably.

    5. Use a headset for phone calls, so you do not have to hold a phone with your hands or shoulder.


  • Consider trying acupuncture. In this study, people who used the computer with tension neck syndrome were given acupuncture and physical therapy, just acupuncture and just physical therapy over ten weeks. Study participants were measured on their pain intensity, muscle tension, and range of motion, and all groups showed significant improvement. The group receiving both acupuncture and physical therapy showed the most improvements, and all groups reported these improvements maintained after six months. Like YouMari, acupuncture is an excellent modality to use in combination with other treatments, like physical therapy.

  • Heat and cold therapy can be an effective way to find relief. The golden rule for heat and cold is to use heat on cold, e.g., to increase movement in stiff muscles or joints. Use cold on heat or when a muscle is hot and inflamed. Always put a cloth between a heating pad or ice pack and your skin. Use ice for 15 minutes and no more than 20, as often as every hour. Please don’t use a heating pad for more than an hour, and for ice and heat, only use it when it feels good on the afflicted area.

  • Epsom salt baths or compresses are an excellent way to relax painful muscles in your neck and shoulders. Epsom salts are a form of magnesium, which absorbs through your skin and relaxes tight, sore muscles. To take an Epsom salt bath, draw a bath as hot as is comfortable and add 1-3 cups of Epsom salts. Mix until they dissolve and soak for 15-25 minutes. You can use a compress if a bath isn’t your style or you don’t have the time. Mix a solution of Epsom salts and warm water, soak a washcloth in the solution and apply it directly to the painful area. Lay down a towel on your bed or couch and watch your favorite show with the compress on your neck or shoulder.

  • Many people find relief through the care of a chiropractor. This study reviewed many studies of people with neck pain receiving chiropractic care. While more research is needed, this review’s overall results were that many patients with acute neck pain found relief through chiropractic treatment. As with any health care modality, do your research and find a chiropractor through good reviews or satisfied patients.