For those living with neck pain, conventional treatments such as medications or chiropractic care won’t always provide relief. Many of us have had neck pain at one time or another. This is often caused by poor posture, stress, sleeping in odd positions, or there could be degenerative changes to the cervical spine. The result is stiff muscles in your neck and shoulders, tension, and limited neck mobility. Neck tension can occur for several reasons, but here are a few suggestions on how to relieve neck pain.
An average head weighs about 8-10 lbs, and the further forward your head is past your shoulders, the more the muscles of your neck and upper back have to work to hold it up. Over time, these muscles can develop painful “knots” due to the strain of your head sitting forward of your shoulders. In a relaxed sitting position, have someone take a picture of you: determine whether or not your ear is directly over your shoulder. If it isn’t and it’s past your shoulder, work on sitting up straight, and pulling your head backward so that your head ‘sits’ better on your body. Practicing this posture exercise regularly can help alleviate neck pain.
There are discs between the vertebrae in your spine that require water to maintain proper disc height and spinal alignment. Having adequate alignment takes pressure off the spine. Each spinal disc is roughly 80 percent water when we're born, and this ratio decreases as we get older. By maintaining strong daily hydration habits, this can help prevent further degeneration of cervical discs, which helps reduce neck pain.
You have a gentle inward curve at the base of your spine. This inward curve is what aligns the spine when you sit down, while it lets your head-rest in a normal position. If you place a pillow behind your back to support that lower inward curve or adjust your office chair for better support, you can help relieve your neck pain.
Here’s a gentle exercise that is recommended for how to relieve neck pain: fold a hand towel lengthwise and then roll it into a smaller roll (approx. 3-inch diameter). Using no pillow, lie flat on your back and put the roll under the base of your skull. Relaxing all the muscles of your neck, gently and very slightly nod your head like you are saying ‘yes’ while you exhale. Repeat this motion for about 10-20 times and up to 3-5 minutes.
To maintain good flexibility and strength of your spine, one of the best ways to relieve neck pain is to use a foam roller or small ball. To do this, roll get a foam roller or small ball, and roll it all over your thorax to promote good alignment of your neck. To help retraction and depression, perform shoulder strengthening exercises, and use rotator cuff strengthening to support your neck. Regular stretching, yoga, or pilates also helps as well.
Neck pain is a very common orthopedic condition, and practicing some or all of the above self-treatments can offer some neck pain relief. Make sure to be mindful of your neck position and movements during the day. Realize that the more often you find yourself with your head forward, the more you are likely to feel neck pain. Learning how to relieve neck pain starts by being aware and being proactive about your posture!