If you spend a lot of time working on a computer or if you often wake up with a stiff neck, it’s time to take a look at these tips on how to treat neck pain.
What causes neck pain?
Structurally-speaking, the neck is complex. It is made up of cervical vertebrae, nerves and muscles that protect the esophagus and larynx. As it is curved, and supports the head (which can weigh between 6.5 and 11lbs), it is very susceptible to tension, pain and stiffness. The most common causes of neck pain include:
- bad posture
- holding the head up or down for a long time
- an unsuitable pillow
- muscular spasms, caused by sudden movements
Exercises to treat neck pain
These exercises will help to relieve neck pain:
- Find a quiet place to relax. Lie on your back (on the floor, if possible) and close your eyes. Stretch out your arms. Slowly move your neck from side to side, as if you were saying, “No”. Then move your left ear towards your left shoulder. Repeat on the right.
- Sit on a chair with your back well-supported behind you. Repeat the exercises above, then add this new exercise: circle your head, beginning with your chin touching your chest. Move your head towards your right shoulder, backwards, and then over to the left. Do the same in the opposite direction.
- Massage technique: Rub your hands over the nape of the neck, up and down, using a light pressure. Now, using the same action, treat the area from your ears to your shoulders. Do this 10 times for each area. Then knead your neck and shoulders, “picking up” the muscles between your fingers and thumb and moving over each section. Do this 10 times.
- In order to stretch and strengthen the neck, tilt the head downwards as much as you can and then tilt it backwards as far as you can go. When you tilt it back, open your mouth as if you were going to yawn, to release muscular tension.
- Another option is to repeat the above exercise, while applying light pressure at the nape of the neck when moving the head down, and on the forehead when moving the head back.
- Try yoga. Yoga is excellent for muscular pain relief, and works the entire body. It will give you a great stretch and it helps combat stiffness. One class per week will work wonders.
Natural remedies to relieve neck pain
In addition to the exercises, which should be done every day (and not only when your neck hurts), here are some natural treatments to relieve that tension that just won’t let you rest:
- Prepare a warm bath. Then make an infusion which contains two tablespoons of honey, four lettuce leaves, and the peel of three oranges. To do this, boil a pint of water, then add the ingredients and let them steep for 20 minutes. Strain and add to the bath water, then get in! This will help relax your neck.
- Pass a towel infused with rosemary or marjoram oil over the neck a few times. You can also use a couple of drops of arnica.
- Massage your neck at least twice a day with a mixture of camphor balm and a little pressed garlic. Wash off with warm water and a neutral soup after 10 minutes.
- Hold a bag of crushed ice wrapped in a towel or dish towel to the area for 10 minutes, or as long as you can. This will reduce inflammation in the neck area. Then apply a hot towel to relax the muscles. Dip the towel in hot water and then squeeze it out before applying.
Tips for preventing neck pain
To get rid of that neck pain for good, try putting the following recommendations into practice every day:
- Sleep on a firm mattress. If you haven’t changed it in some time, it might be time to buy a new one. When the springs have lost their strength and the stuffing has flattened out, a mattress needs replacing. A mattress has to be firm in order to keep your head level.
- Avoid using very thick pillows. Shredded foam pillows are recommended instead of solid foam pillows. An interesting alternative is a “cervical pillow” which supports the head better. You could also try sleeping without a pillow for a night, your neck might not need it one at all.
- Always sit on a firm chair in an upright position. The spine goes right up to the base of the skull, and if it isn’t supported properly, it’s more likely that you’ll have a painful neck and shoulders.
- Use a towel or special pillow when you’re sitting, to improve the alignment of your spine and therefore your neck. Just roll up a towel and put it behind your lower back.
- Adjust your computer screen if you are in front of one for a long time. It should be at the same level as your eyes, so that your neck is “straight” and you don’t have to look up or down.
- Take care when picking things up off the floor. Bend your knees and keep your back straight, with your knees out to the sides, and the object directly below you. Hold it as close to your body as you can.
- Avoid wearing high heeled shoes. They cause an unnatural curvature of the spine and push the neck forward, and are a common cause of neck pain.
- Never sleep faced down. This is detrimental to the spine, and damages the vertebrae in the neck area. Opt for a “fetal” position, on your side with your knees close to your chest. Sleeping on your belly makes breathing more difficult.
- Wrap up your neck when it’s cold or damp outside, even on summer evenings, because a cold breeze can make stiffness and neck pain worse.
- Avoid bad habits like washing your hair in the sink, holding the phone against your shoulder, shaving with your head held back, etc.
- Rest frequently, changing your position, especially when sitting in front of a computer for long periods. Step out of the office for a few minutes, stretch out your neck by moving your head from side-to-side and in circles at least every hour.