Neck Stiffness- Causes, Ayurveda Treatment

What is Neck Stiffness and its ayurvedic term?

Neck Stiffness-  is the clinical entity in which the back of the neck becomes stiff or rigid and the movements of the neck are impaired.

A stiff neck is typically characterized by soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head to the side. It may also be accompanied by a headache, neck pain, shoulder pain and/or arm pain. In order to look sideways or over the shoulder, an individual may need to turn the entire body instead of the stiff neck.

 Stiff neck is broadly explained as Manyastambha in Ayurveda.

The stiffness of neck is consequence of aggravated Vata lodging in the cervical region. Along with Vata, Kapha dosha is also associated.

Vata is vitiated and lodged in the Kapha sthana, so the Kapha involvement can occur.

Neck Stiffness Causes

  • Wrong Sleeping or sitting posture.
  • use of hard or a thick pillow
    Having the arms beneath the head or pillow while sleeping
  • Regular day sleep
  • Heavy exercises of  the neck and shoulder
  • Constant pressure over the cervical region
  • Falling or sudden impact that pushes the head to the side, such as sports injuries
  • Turning the head side to side repeatedly during an activity, such as swimming the front crawl stroke
  • Direct neck injury
  • Constantly watching a far object for a long period of time
  • Excessive intake of Vata-kapha dominant food such as heavy to digest oily food stuff, frozen foods etc. 
  • Pulling heavy objects forcefully etc.
  • Experiencing excessive stress or anxiety, which can lead to tension in the neck
  • Holding the neck in an abnormal position for a long period, such as cradling a phone between the neck and shoulder

The cause of the stiff neck may be obvious if symptoms start right away, such as after falling during a sporting event.

 However, it could be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause if stiffness starts suddenly

Sometimes neck stiffness is a reaction to an underlying disorder of the cervical spine, which helps support and move the neck in addition to protecting the spinal cord. Several examples of cervical spine disorders that can cause neck muscles to painfully spasm or tighten include:

  1. Degeneration of the cervical spine, including the cervical disks and the joints between the bones of the cervical spine
  2. Aging. By age 60, most women and men show signs of cervical spondylosis on x-ray.
  3. Previous neck injury
  4. Severe arthritis
  5. Previous spine surgery 

Neck Stiffness Signs and Symptoms

  1. Difficulty in walking
  2. Limited ability to bend the head toward the shoulder and rotate the head.
  3. Loss of co-ordination
  4. Loss of feeling in hands and legs                       
  5. Pain in the neck that may spread to the shoulders and the base of the skull.
  6. Pins and needles type pain
  7. Reflexes are often reduced
  8. Stiffness in neck
  9. Weakness or loss of sensation.


  • CT scan
  • Spine MRI
  • Spinal X-ray
  • Neck X-ray
  • EMG
  • Myelogram 

Neck Stiffness Ayurveda Treatment

Acharya Sushruta says Nidana Parivarjana is first line of treatment.

But Charaka has further amplified the scope of Chikitsa by saying; Chikitsa aims not only the less exposure to the causative factors of the disease, but also at the restoration of Dosha equilibrium.

Manyastambha being Vatajavyadhi, treatment of Vatavyadhi can be adopted. To pacify Vata & Kapha, Snehana, Nasya, Rukshaswedana and Kwatha Prepared out of Dashamoola, Panchamoola are indicated

Abhyanga with Taila & Ghritha,

In general line of treatment of Vatavyadhi, Snehana and Swedana are given prime importance.

The abhyanga which is one of the Bahya Snehana will serve the purpose of Snehana .  

Nasya, Abhagya, Ruksha sweda and Kukkutand Drava Sweda has effective results in the management of Manyastambha.

Rasona taila described in Charaka samhita as Vatahara which can be used for it.

Nasya yogas(Nasal drops) indicated in Manyastambha

  1. Mashabaladi Nasya
  2. Ksheerabala Taila.
  3. Karpashastyadi taila
  4. Anu taila
  5. Ksheerabala taila
  6. Shadabindu taila
  7. Prasarinyadi taila

Gutika Yogas indicated in Manyastambha

  1. Yogaraja Guggulu.
  2. Mahajograja Guggulu
  3. Tryodashang Guggul
  4. Gokashuradi Guggul

Kashaya Kalpanas indicated in Manyastambha

  1. Dashamoola Kashaya.
  2. Panchamooli Kwatha.
  3. Mashabaladi Kwatha.
  4. Maharasnadi kwatha
  5. Sahacharadi kashaya

Rasakalpas indicated in Manyastambha

  1. Vata Gajankusha Rasa
  2. Vata vidhwamsa Rasa
  3. Ekangvir Rasa

Taila Kalpanas indicated in Manyastambha

  1. Mahanarayana Taila.
  2. Prasarini Taila.
  3. Mashabaladi Taila.
  4. Mahamasha Taila.
  5. Gandha Taila.
  6. Vishagarbha tail
  7. Dhanvantra Taila

Single herbs Useful in Neck Stiffness

  • Ahawganda
  • Bala – Sida cordifolia – useful to soothen nerves
  • Bilva – Aegle marmelos – balances Vata, relieves inflammation (one among Dashamoola).
  • Rasna- Alpinia galanaga – relieves pain
  • Gokshura – Tribulus terrestris – anti inflammatory
  • Shallaki-Bosswellia serrata- relieves pain and inflammation
  • Guggulu – Commiphora mukul – relieves pain and inflammation
  • Saindhavalavana – Rock salt – specific to relieve stiffness
  • Sesame oil (Tilataila) – good Vata balancing oil
  • Rala – Shorea robusta – relieves stiffness
  • Shaliparni – Desmodium gangeticum – anti-inflammatory
  • Prishinparni – Uraria picta – – anti-inflammatory

Pathya (Wholesome diet and habit)

  • Do not try to exercise neck in the initial stages. It will only make it more painful.
  • Hot water bath is better for this condition than cold water bath.
  • Apply any of the above-mentioned oils and do gentle massage
  • Shashtika shali (Red rice)
  • Godhuma (Wheat)
  • Milk
  • Rest to neck and shoulder

If the stiffness is associated with pain, then applying cold ice pack brings relief

Apathya (Unwholesome diet and habits)

  1. Day sleep
  2.  Intake of curd, unctuous substances etc
  3. Fried and oily food
  4. Dry substances
  5. Heavy exercise and exertions
  6. Two-wheeler driving
  7. Improper positions
  8. Potato, sweet potato, jack fruit, yellow and red gram, peanuts etc.


  1. Practice good posture.
  2. Keep neck strong and flexible.
  3. Try not to look down at a cell phone or tablet for long periods. Use an earpiece to talk on the phone. Take frequent breaks.
  4. Carrying a heavy purse or briefcase can put pressure on the shoulder and strain the muscles in the neck. Use rolling bags or backpacks whenever possible
  5. Take breaks. Sitting or driving for long periods can strain the neck. Get up, walk, and stretch at least once per hour.
  6. Invest in a high-quality mattress and pillow that provide the correct amount of support.
  7. Do Yoga, Meditation and Surya Namaskar Regularly.
  8. Rest to neck and shoulder for a day or two is all that is needed to give the neck’s soft tissues a chance to heal.
  9. In cases where pain is significant, an individual may want to use an over-the-counter pain medication as mentioned above.
  10. In severe cases use internal medicines.

When to see a doctor?

A stiff neck is generally not a cause for alarm. However, see a doctor if:

  • The stiffness is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever, a headache, or irritability.
  • The stiffness does not go away within a few days and after trying home treatments such as NSAIDs and gentle stretching.
  • The pain is severe.

Due to busy and hectic work schedule people often suffer from the complaints like neck rigidity. The people who work with machines, computers and heavy objects (lifting, pulling etc), sports persons are more prone for stiffness of the neck. Care and caution during their job and weekly Ayurvedic massage will reduce the chances of neck stiffness.

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