Neck pain has many causes. An injury can cause neck pain. Osteoarthritis can cause it. People cause neck pain with poor posture and by carrying uneven or heavy loads.
Even when every movement you make hurts your neck, the remedy to alleviate that pain may be to do just that, move more. Studies have shown that gentle stretches can often bring more pain relief to people than pills.
There are a few things one can try at home; gentle stretches, hot compresses and cold compresses. If the pain continues once these have been tried it may be a good idea to visit a physiotherapist.
One great exercise to try is called a reverse shoulder shrug; the shrug can help relax tight muscles and relieve pain in the shoulder and in the neck. It can strengthen the upper back, shoulder and neck muscles. Stronger muscles can result in less pain.
To do the reverse shoulder shrug; sit on a chair, sit up straight keeping your back away from the backrest. Reach your fingers towards the floor and pull your shoulders back and down. Pull your chin back while keeping your ears above your shoulders. Pull your navel towards your spine. All of this should create a feeling of lengthening your spine. Stay in this position for about 4 seconds, then let go. Do eight to ten repetitions.
The reverse shoulder shrug can relax and strengthen the shoulder muscles that often cause pain. This stretch can be done in the hot shower or with a hot pad across the shoulder to relax the muscles even more.
Something else to try is neck rotations and tilts. Very gently tilt your neck back, forward and side to side. For each tilt hold the stretch for about fifteen seconds or more. Do not force the stretch past a gentle pull on the muscles. Then for the rotation turn your head to the side as far as is comfortable in first one direction than the other direction. Hold each stretch for about 15 seconds. Again do not force it to the point of pain. Doing the stretch in the shower or applying heat before or during the stretches can help.
A third way to stretch your neck is a variation on the neck tilt. Bend your head forward and slightly to one side. With the hand on the same side, gently pull your head down. Hold that gentle stretch for about 30 seconds and then do the same stretch on the other side.
Finally, and maybe the most important suggestion is to learn to use good posture throughout the day. Practice keeping your shoulders straight over your hips and keeping your ears straight over your shoulders as you perform your regular tasks.
The treatment of neck pain can depend on what is causing it. If it is caused by inflammation, for example, cold compresses may help more than heat. Or sometimes alternating cold and heat can be beneficial.
When heat or cold compresses and simple stretches at home don’t seem to be enough, it may be time to seek the help of one of Cambridge’s physiotherapists. The Physiotherapist has treatments that can relax tight muscles and the physiotherapist can provide exercises to do at home. The physiotherapist can provide advice on how to perform daily tasks, like standing at the counter or sitting at a desk. Simple changes can prevent a lot of pain.
A professional can tell you if you are doing the exercise correctly. They can assess the problem and ensure you are doing the right exercise for the particular situation. A physiotherapist can train you to do the stretches that will help.