When your neck hurts, it may feel like everything else does, too. You can’t move your head, your whole upper body hurts and you’re starting to get a headache. The pain can consume your every minute, affecting your mood and overall wellness.
Neck pain is incredibly common, so many people understand how you feel. The feeling can range from stiffness to a sharp, stabbing sensation. Some also feel the pain extending to their shoulders, backs and arms. Thankfully, you can do stretches to alleviate some of that pain.
1. Up and Down
You can do this exercise while sitting or standing. With your arms at your sides and your shoulders relaxed, look up as far as your head can go. Try to hold this position for five seconds or as long as possible. Then, slowly bring your head down and go as low as possible. Try to keep the position for five seconds.
You might feel pain or tension while stretching, so take deep breaths to relax. Repeat the up-and-down stretch 10 times.
2. Side to Side
Next, with your arms still to your side, tilt your head to the right until you feel the left side of your neck stretch. Bring your ear as near to your shoulder as you can. Hold the stretch for five seconds.
Then, slowly bring your head back to the center and tilt your head to the left side. Again, bring your left ear to your shoulder as near as possible. Return to a normal position and repeat the side-to-side stretch 10 times.
3. Down and Side to Side
Now, look down and bring your chin to your chest. While still looking down, turn your head to the left, bringing your chin as close as possible to the left shoulder. Try to hold the position for five seconds or as long as you can. Next, move your chin back to your chest, then slowly turn your head to the right. Hold for five seconds and repeat the exercise 10 times on each side.
4. Neck Rotations
It’s time to do some neck rotations. Start by tilting your head to the right. Then, slowly rotate your head forward, bringing your chin as close to your chest as possible. Next, turn your head to the left. Finally, tilt your head back as far as you can. Repeat this rotation three times, then do it in the opposite direction three times after.
5. Fold Forward
Next, wrap your arms around you, with your left hand behind your right shoulder and vice versa. Tilt your head forward as far as you can. Then, fold your upper body forward as far as you can. Hold the position for around 10 seconds or as long as you can.
If you’ve been sitting down for the earlier exercises, it’s time to stand up at a hip-width stance. Wrap your arms around yourself again, but this time, bring your left hand to your right elbow and vice versa. Now, bend forward from your hips as far as you can. While holding that position, tilt your head back and forth three times. Then, rock your head side to side three times.
6. Shoulder Rotations
Go back to an upright position. Bring your arms to your sides and relax your shoulders. First, raise your shoulders and rotate forward. Repeat this forward rotation five times. Then, raise your shoulders and rotate backward. Repeat five times.
Causes of Neck Pain
One of the most common reasons for neck pain is muscle strain. You can strain your neck muscles by having poor posture while sitting in front of the computer. You might have noticed your neck hurts after a long day at work or if you’ve slept at the wrong angle.
Sometimes, mental stress can manifest into physical pain. Anxiety can make you tense your muscles, leading to neck strain.
There are other more serious reasons behind neck pain. Some experience pain from compressed nerves, while some have more severe conditions like a herniated disk or spinal growth. Pain can also stem from injuries. Whiplash and blunt trauma are some of the most common ways people injure their necks.
If your neck pain is intense or doesn’t go away with home remedies, it’s time to seek medical help. You can do a series of simple stretches for less severe cases to relieve some of the pain and tension.
How Often Should You Do Neck Stretches?
It all depends on how bad your neck pain is. If you’re having a hard time, doing the stretches once a day is fine. However, don’t force yourself to hold stretches too long or to repeat them too often if you can barely move your head. If you’re feeling better or just experiencing some light tension, you can repeat the stretches a few times a day or as often as you need.
Other Ways to Deal With Neck Pain
There are other ways to deal with pain other than stretches, ranging from home remedies to professional help. Here are some things you can do to help relieve neck pain:
- Cold and hot compresses: Alternate cold and hot compresses to alleviate neck pain. A cold compress helps reduce inflammation, while a hot compress helps relax strained muscles.
- OTC medicines: Try over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers like ibuprofen and naproxen to reduce inflammation. You can also take acetaminophen. One study shows 90% of people can manage pain with OTC and physical therapy better than with opioids.
- Massages: You can get gentle and targeted massages to help relieve neck pain. You can have a trusted loved one do this for you or hire a massage professional.
- Physical therapy: If your neck pain results from an injury, you might need to see a physical therapist. They can help you manage your pain and recover mobility in your neck.
Keeping Your Neck Pain-Free
There are ways to help prevent neck pain — the best of which is to practice good posture. Be mindful of how you position your neck, shoulders and head throughout the day. Adjust your work table and chairs so you’re comfortable and not straining your neck.
To avoid issues in your sleep, invest in a firmer pillow that adequately supports your neck. You can also change your sleeping position. The best one to prevent neck pain is sleeping on your side, while the worst is sleeping on your stomach.
Keeping yourself active and on the move assists in reducing the chance of neck pain. Additionally, lower stress and be mindful of negative emotions to help you relieve tension and muscle strain that can lead to neck pain.
Reducing Neck Pain and Tension
Neck pain is a widespread problem. Whenever you experience it, try stretches to help you lessen the pain. You can also experiment with different solutions to see which works best for you. As with any kind of pain, you should call a doctor if it’s unbearable or doesn’t go away after a few days.