About 10—20% of Americans are affected by neck pain at any given time. If you happen to be part of this population and are dealing with neck pain right now, you may be wondering what you can do to alleviate it.
Poor posture and bad positioning of the neck is a major reason that pain develops over time. With this in mind, you can consider how you move your neck in your daily activities the biggest contributing factor in whether you’ll develop neck pain and how severe it will be.
For this reason, if you are currently impaired by neck pain, one of the best things you can do is look at how you use your neck throughout the day and identify any postures that might be contributing to your pain. For example, if you take public transportation to work, observe your neck is position throughout your commute. If you notice that you tilt your head down when reading or to the side when taking a nap, you should try to change your habits to avoid these movements, and consider using a neck pillow for the short naps to keep your neck properly aligned. Following the same recommendations provided in our last newsletter on your bed and workstation setup will also help to relieve your neck pain over time.
Some other effective steps you can take to alleviate your neck pain right now include the following:
Disclaimer: before you try these or any other exercises, ask your doctor or physical therapist.
- Apply ice or heat: for mild neck pain that you have just started to notice, apply an icepack to the neck for 20 to 30–minute intervals every few hours for 2–3 days; after this period, apply heat to the area with a hot compress, heating pad, or hot shower
- Perform some each neck movements
- It’s important to keep the joints in your neck mobile even when you’re in pain, but to avoid any jerking movements that can put strain on the neck
- Try to also perform these movements regularly:
- Roll your shoulders backwards in a circle for 10 repetitions
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together for 10 repetitions
- Bring your ear to your shoulder 10 times on each side
- Exercise in a pool: many individuals find pools—especially those kept at a warm temperature—to be soothing for neck pain; aquatic exercise, gentle swimming strokes, or simply moving around the water with the neck submerged may all help
- Reduce stress: high levels of stress can cause you to tense the muscles in your neck and may make pain worse; this is why it’s important to try to find ways to reduce your stress in order to prevent further neck pain and stiffness
- Stay hydrated at all times
- Have a partner gently massage the sore or painful area
- Limit the amount of time you spend looking at your phone
- Try to avoid driving for long periods of time
If your neck pain persists after trying out these home remedies, it’s best to see a physical therapist next for a complete evaluation and personalized treatment program. We’ll look into the crucial role that physical therapy can play in correcting neck pain in our next newsletter