Neck pain can quite literally be a real pain in the neck. It can leave you feeling stiff and uncomfortable and can make moving your head near impossible. If you’re constantly dealing with neck pain as a result of your job, long hours at the computer, or an underlying health problem, here are a few simple exercises and home remedies that might really help.
1. Perform Yoga Asanas
Studies indicate that learning the right yoga asanas can give you much-needed relief from neck pain. In one such study, people with the condition noticed that the intensity of their pain reduced significantly after practicing yoga regularly. In addition to this, their disability reduced and quality of life improved.1
Tadasana Or Standing Mountain Pose
This asana provides relief from a sore neck, tight neck, neck tension, and neck pain.3
This works well to alleviate neck tension, pain, soreness, and tightness.4
Bhujangasana Or Cobra Pose
This pose strengthens the back muscles and improves the flexibility of the spine, hence allowing you to get stronger and ease neck pain.5
Modified Uttanasana Or Modified Standing Forward Bend Pose
This pose eases neck and shoulder pain and relieves any tension in the surrounding muscles.6
Balasana Or Child Pose
This asana relaxes your neck during your yoga workout.7
Here’s a detailed reckoner on the best asanas for neck pain relief.
2. Try Neck Stretches And Tilts
If yoga isn’t your thing or you feel that you need the help of an instructor to get going, then these regular stretches and tilts that help neck pain might be less daunting. Studies have concluded that exercise can ease up to 75% of neck pain in many people. This figure is comparable to what you would get out of a visit to a chiropractor.8 9 Here are a few things you can try at home.
While keeping your posture upright, push your chin forward so you feel the throat stretch. Gently tense your neck muscles for 5 seconds before returning your head to the center. From this position, push your neck backward while keeping your chin up. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Then, return to the starting position and repeat this stretch 5 times.
Tilt your head up and down and then side to side a few times. Be slow and steady with your movement. Gently tense your neck muscles for 5 seconds each time you tilt your head. Repeat this exercise 5 times.
3. Try Pilates
Like physical therapy, stretches, and tilts, Pilates can relieve chronic neck pain, improve your posture, and increase the neck’s range of motion. As an added bonus, Pilates also strengthens the neck and upper back muscles.10 Here are a few exercises you can try.
The Head Nod
This exercise is believed to improve the stability of your neck. Here’s how you can go about it:
- Lie on your back with your legs bent at the knees and feet positioned hip-width apart.
- Tuck your chin in toward your chest.
- Slowly lift your head off the mat while keeping your chin tucked. Make sure to keep your head on the floor for as long as possible as you do this, allowing yourself to naturally move into the neck lift.
- Untuck your chin, lower your head back down to the mat. This is one repetition.
The Swan Dive
This exercise works the muscles in the back of your neck. Here’s how you can go about it:
- Lie down flat on your stomach and place your hands under your forehead.
- Lift your head off the mat as you exhale, while keeping your chin tucked in.
- Inhale as you lower down and relax, returning your forehead to your hands.
You could repeat these exercises as many times as manageable. However, be sure to take things slow and not strain your neck.
4. Get A Massage
Massages are believed to aid in the recovery of muscle strain and pains by improving blood circulation. They can also relax your muscles, giving way to an improved range of motion. While you could use any massage oil, studies show that adding a few drops of marjoram, black pepper, lavender, and peppermint essential oil to a carrier oil works well at alleviating pain.11 Here are two simple techniques that you could teach your loved one to do at home.12
- Apply your thumbs to the area between the spine and the shoulder blade.
- While applying medium-firm pressure, move your thumbs down your muscles along the spine in circular motions.
- Place both your thumbs on the area between the spine and shoulder blade.
- Glide your thumbs down your neck and back muscles while applying pressure, following the pathway of the shoulder blade.
5. Apply Hot Or Cold Packs
Applying a hot pack or a cold pack to the point of pain can relieve any pain, ease your discomfort, and decrease stiffness in the neck muscles.13 Here’s how you can go about them.
Applying a warm Epsom salt compress for 15 to 30 minutes is recommended as well though studies haven’t been able to establish a scientific basis to its effectiveness.14
- Hot packs: These provide relief by boosting circulation, easing stiffness, and reducing muscular spasms. To try this remedy out, just dampen a towel in warm/hot (but not scalding) water and apply it to the neck. If you use a heating pad, wrap it in a thin layer of cloth or a towel since direct contact could burn your skin.15
- Cold packs: These provide relief by easing any inflammation and numbing any pain that you might be experiencing. Make your own cold compress by dampening a towel in cold water and placing it in the freezer in a plastic bag for 15 minutes before applying it to the affected part of your neck. Alternatively, you could use ice in a sealed bag.16
It might be a good idea to exercise the neck gently alongside this remedy to improve the range of motion of your neck muscles.
6. Sleep On The Right Pillow And A Good Mattress
When it comes to neck pain, your pillow could also make a difference. After all, 7–8 hours of your time is spent sleeping. So you need to get it right. One study found that people with neck problems saw a significant improvement in their pain after they switched to using special neck pillows. As a bonus, they even managed to sleep better!17
You may even try a water pillow. You can choose the appropriate amount of firmness by adjusting the water level – add more water if you want it firmer.18
A low and firm (but not hard) pillow is ideal for this since it will give your neck the support it needs and will keep your spine and neck aligned to reduce strain. The idea is to keep your head close to the level of the rest of your body while you sleep. Back this up with a nice firm mattress for overall spine support and you should see some improvement.19
7. Try Acupressure
Traditional acupressure practitioners can ease your neck pain and relieve any soreness or stiffness that you might be experiencing. You could either get treated by them or learn how to stimulate the right pressure points from them. Here are a few that you can try.
The Zhong Zhu Or Triple Energizer 3
This pressure point is often stimulated to ease tension in the neck and relieve upper back pain. It is located in the groove between your 4th and 5th fingers (behind your knuckles).20
The Jian Zhong Shu Or SI15
This is another effective pressure point that relieves pain throughout the muscles in the shoulder region.21 It is found in the mid-shoulder area on your back.22
The Shen Mai or UB62 Or Shen Mai
This pressure point, located slightly under the ankle bone, can help reduce neck stiffness and swelling.23
To stimulate any of the above-mentioned pressure points, press them firmly for 4–5 seconds.
8. Maintain A Good Posture
More often than not, neck pain is caused by wrong posture. So if you’re already struggling with a bad neck, try and correct your posture to avoid worsening the problem. This should also help prevent future neck pain.24 Even if your neck pain is due to a pinched nerve in the neck, a good posture is helpful.
Good Sitting Posture
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind so as to sit correctly, whether it is at your desk or just in your living room.
- Always keep your feet firmly on the ground. If they can’t reach the floor, you could get a footrest.
- Ensure that your forearms are parallel to the floor.
- Avoid crossing your legs and make sure to keep your ankles ahead of your knees.
- Make sure to keep a little gap between the front of the seat and the back of your knees.
- Ensure that your knees are level with your hips or below them, never higher.
- Check that your lower and middle back are supported. Add an extra support if you need to.
- Make sure your shoulders are relaxed.
Don’t crane your neck to read from your phone. Hold the phone up to eye level. Don’t cradle the phone between the ear and the shoulder, either. Use a headset.
Good Standing Posture
There’s a right way to stand as well and although it isn’t something you think about very often, it is worth keeping a check on. Here are a few things you can keep in mind to maintain a good posture while standing.
- The bulk of your weight should be carried onto the balls of your feet. If you’ve been standing for a long time, shift your weight from one foot to the other or from your toes to the heels for a bit.
- Make sure to keep your knees bent a little at all times. Slouching isn’t good for your upper body, but keeping your legs ramrod straight isn’t great either.
- Ensure that your feet are shoulder-width apart at all times.
- Make sure to keep your shoulders pulled back and stomach tucked in.
- Ensure that your head doesn’t jut out to the front, back, or sides and that your earlobes line up with your shoulders.
9. Stay Hydrated
This advice might seem bizarre in an article for neck pain, but do note that your spine consists of bones as well as cartilage which is designed to reduce friction between the bones, and as much as 70–80% of your cartilage is composed of water. When your body is well hydrated, the cartilage is able to cut the friction. Unfortunately, when the cartilage is not properly hydrated, it can result in a greater rate of friction and, by extension, greater degeneration and damage. This can cause you to experience pain or worsen the intensity of pain if you already have a worn down cartilage or suffer from joint problems. So watch for these signs of dehydration and ensure that you get adequate fluids to avoid these symptoms.25:
- Increased thirst
- Dryness in the mouth
- Less urine output/darker yellow urine
While all of the above-mentioned remedies will help you ease neck pain, be prudent. Go slow with the exercises and yoga poses. Don’t push yourself too hard. Stop if the pain increases. See a doctor if the pain doesn’t go down despite all these measures.