Happy Friday everyone; today I want to teach you how to easily relieve your own neck pain. We have all experienced it from time to time. Maybe it came on gradually after a long work day or a weekend of hard work around the house. Perhaps it started after sleeping in an awkward position. Regardless of how it began, it can be a game changer. Acute neck pain can interfere with every-day things like driving, dressing or picking up your kids. If it goes on too long, neck pain can cause other problems like headaches, back pain and permanent postural changes. In this post, I will give you some tips and tools for relieving your neck pain. I will also show you how to prevent it from happening again.
Relieving Neck Pain
The great news is that neck pain can be resolved with my favorite combination of heat, massage, stretch, strengthen and ice. To be effective, the sequence must be done in that order. For more information on how to use heat and ice, check out my post on hydrotherapy.
This part is easy! You can heat the neck and shoulder area by soaking in a warm bath with epsom salts, or applying a heating pad or microwavable warm pack directly to the area for 10 to 15 minutes. This is the perfect time to add in some meditation or mindfulness exercises!
Next, massage the warmed muscles of the neck and shoulder area. You will need a tennis ball or a massage stick like this. If using a tennis ball, pin it between your middle back and a wall while you are standing up. Apply pressure to the ball by leaning in to it. Move your torso up, down and sideways to isolate the different muscles between the shoulder blades and base of the neck. If you are using a massage stick, sit or lie down in a comfortable position and apply pressure with the stick head directly to those sore muscles.
After heating and massaging, it is important to follow with some stretching so that the muscles are re-set to their proper resting length. The reason why stretching comes before the strengthening portion is because we always aim to lengthen the tissue before challenging it. The first stretch I recommend is called “The Clock” and looks like this:
While you are seated comfortably, pretend as though your head is the hour hand of the clock. You want to stretch in all directions of each “hour” on a clock face. For example; drop your head forward and touch your chin to your chest to stretch in the six o’clock position, or look towards each arm pit to stretch the four and eight o’clock positions.
Bring your head back up to a neutral, upright position before moving on to the next hour so that you don’t grind on the small facet joints of the neck. Continue working around the clock to nine, twelve and three o’clock. Only take the stretch to where you feel a relieving pull. If you experience any pain, return to a neutral position and try again, going slowly and gently to the point just before you feel discomfort and hold there. Hold each position for thirty to sixty seconds and be mindful of pressing the shoulders down while you stretch out the neck so that they do not follow along.
The second stretch I recommend is the “In Doorway Pec Stretch” and looks like this:
Stand in front of an open door frame. Raise your shoulders to 90 degrees and bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Place your hands on either side of the jamb palms facing forward. Keep your head forward and your back straight while you take a step through the doorway with one food. You should feel this stretch across the front of your chest and shoulders. Hold the position for at least thirty seconds.
The next piece of the puzzle for relieving neck pain is to strengthen the small, deep muscles that support the spine. Often our pain is because the large, superficial muscles are doing too much work while the deeper postural muscles are not doing enough. The great news is that strengthening the small spine stabilizers is quick, easy and won’t make you break out in a sweat. They are small, so you don’t need to lift anything heavy.
The first exercise is chin tucks and looks like this:
You can do the chin tuck either lying down or standing against a wall. Press your shoulders down and back while looking straight in front of you. Tip your chin down just slightly then press the back of your head into the wall or surface below you. You should feel a slight squeezing sensation at the base of your skull where it meets your neck. Hold for the count of three and then release. Repeat this 7 times for a total of 8 contractions. Take a small 30 second break and repeat for another 8 contractions.
The second exercise is posterior shoulder squeezes and looks like this:
You can do shoulder squeezes either sitting or standing. Press your shoulders down and back while looking straight in front of you. Using the muscles between your shoulder blades, squeeze their edges together towards your spine. You should feel a tightening sensation in the middle of your back. Hold for the count of three and then release. Repeat this 7 times for a total of 8 contractions. Take a small 30 second break and repeat for another 8 contractions.
Lastly, you want to cool the area down with ice after all the other steps. This will help to reduce any inflammation and flush out any metabolic by-products that are sitting around your tissues. Wrap an ice pack in a thin cloth and place it on the back of your neck and upper shoulders. Relax and rest your body by lying down. Remove the ice after 5 to 10 minutes and continue on enjoying the rest of your day.
You can do this entire sequence every other day. To be most effective, you should try to do it at least three times per week. When done over a period of time, you should also notice your posture improving!
I hope this easy combination helps you to relieve your neck pain. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. If you would like to add massage therapy to your health maintenance routine, book online now.