PT Weekly: Self-care tips for neck pain

Neck pain is a common condition that everyone will experience at least once in their lifetime.

It’s usually simple actions that triggers the pain like; carrying something heavy, sleeping awkwardly or spending your day driving or hunched over a computer.

Your neck muscles are also frequently affected by the way you are feeling. Periods of stress and anxiety cause muscle tension, which in turn can lead to pain. Most of the time, neck pain is not a sign of any serious injury and it generally gets better in a matter of weeks.

The following are some self-care tips that can help you overcome neck pain:

Keep your neck on the move: Gentle movement helps your body heal and prevents other joints and muscles around the painful part of your neck from becoming weak, stiff and painful too. Stay within a pain-free range of motion and move your neck in all directions, little and often. If you work at a desk, get up and move around frequently during the day. Don’t wait until your neck feels uncomfortable before stretching, it’s far less effective this way.

Heat pack: Placing a wheat bag or hot water bottle around your neck for 10- 15 minutes will relax tight, sore muscles. This usually gives some temporary relief from pain, so afterward it’s the ideal time to work on your neck movements.
Shaped pillow: If your sleep is affected by your neck pain, try rolling up a hand towel lengthways and place it in a pair of tights to hold the shape. Slide the roll into your pillowcase along the bottom edge so that when you place your head on the pillow the rolled towel supports your neck.

Breathing exercises: If stress or anxiety are triggers for your neck pain then breathing exercises are a great way to relieve neck symptoms:

  • Lie down somewhere comfortable and quiet. Place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your breastbone.
    Inhale and imagine your abdomen filling with air like a balloon. Your lower hand should rise while your top hand remains still.
  • Make a smooth transition to the next breath without pausing.
  • Allow the breath to exit your body without effort; imagine your lower hand sinking through your body towards the floor. This will help you exhale fully.
  • Count to keep to each breathe long and even; 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out. You can breathe in through your nose, as this adds greater resistance and slows the breath down. Practice twice a day for 5 mins.

Better posture: Draw your shoulders back gently and imagine an invisible cord pulling you up from the crown of your skull, so the back of your neck lengthens and your chin drops in slightly towards your throat. An ergonomic assessment might be helpful to support better posture at work for those that work in offices.

Gentle massage: Gently working into the muscles around your neck and upper shoulders can also help to warm up and relax your muscles before trying to get your neck moving.

Below are some neck exercises that can help relieve neck pain;

Massage is one very effective way of getting quick relief from neck pain. Below are 3 self-massage techniques you can use to remove neck pain fast:

Technique #1
Place the palm of your left hand on the back of your neck. Your thumb should be parallel with your other fingers. Apply a gentle squeeze to your neck, and then slowly turn your head to the right. Hold for 1 breath. Return your head to center, and then slowly turn to the left. Repeat 5-7 times in both directions. This should feel good, so apply just enough pressure to feel a release of the muscles, but make sure not to pinch or squeeze too hard.

Technique #2
Place the knuckles of the right index finger and middle finger just below your right ear (it helps to make a fist). Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, slowly turn you head to the left. Hold for 1 breath, then return your head to center. Repeat 5-7 times on both sides (use left index and middle fingers on the left side, and turn your head to the right). There is no need to press hard with your knuckles. The muscles will massage themselves across your knuckles as you turn your head.

Technique #3
This technique targets the trapezius muscle, a large area of muscle that drapes across the shoulders and down the back (like a poncho). Wrap a tennis ball in a sock. Lay the sock diagonally across your upper back (toe end over the right shoulder, other end looping under the left arm). Apply pressure to the tennis balls in 1 of 3 ways: pulling the sock tight and moving the tennis balls around, leaning back in your chair, or lying on the ground and moving on it. Switch the diagonal cross to massage the other side.

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