Neck pain is no joke. And in our sedentary lives, fixing it is all too often easier said than done. From poor posture to traumatic injuries, our culture is susceptible now more than ever to pain that can span months – or even years. If you’re tired of taking ibuprofen for a quick fix, it’s time you started looking into some natural remedies, and say hello to a pain-free life.
Here are ten excellent ways to help kiss your neck pain goodbye.
1. Hold your phone up!
Sometimes the answer to our problems is right in front of us. And in this case, it’s in front of us all too much. For many U.S. Americans, our neck pain stems from looking down at our phones. And according to Dr. Robert Bolash, a pain specialist at Cleveland Clinic, our stooped posture from our phone addictions is a chronic problem people have begun calling "text neck." Yikes.
Thankfully, the solution is simple: by holding your phone up at eye level instead of leaning down to look over it, you can easily keep your neck straight and your spinal column long. It may take a little adjusting in terms of habits, but your body will thank you in the long run.
2. Shake it up at work
More and more of us find ourselves working with computers. Whether at home or in a cubicle, jobs these days increasingly rely on technology. And it turns out, we haven’t been using them correctly for our bodies. To keep your neck pain at bay, consider your view of the computer screen. The website Spine-health recommends positioning your screen so that your eyes rest at the top third of the screen when looking straight ahead – without stooping.
However, if you aren’t at liberty to adjust your work space, adjusting your habits can be just as impactful. Nowadays, research has shown that people with neck pain can do intentional movement and stretching each hour to help relieve stiffness. Sometimes, all it takes is a small stretch and a loop around the office, restaurant, or coffee shop. Healthline has some great suggestions for stretches to help keep your body limber in the workplace.
See Dr. Oz's Segment on the Neck Hammock...
The Neck Hammock is an affordable, at-home cervical traction device that can reduce neck pain without a visit to the chiropractor.
3. Change your sleep habits
Like the office and our phones, sometimes our habits are running counter to our health interests – even when we’re sleeping – lying on your stomach puts you at risk for neck strain. Try shifting to your back or side for the neck support. If you’re sleeping on your back or side and still experiencing neck pain, make sure your pillow is right for you.
The folks over at Get Healthy U recommend swapping out your pillow for one that contours to your head, like feathers or memory foam, and to avoid a high stack of pillows, which can flex your neck and make it stiff in the night.
4. Heat or Ice
There’s plenty of confusion over whether heat or ice is better for pain, but the bottom line is this:
If the injury is new, go for ice. It’s effective in curbing inflammation and sharp pains. Simply make an ice pack, wrap it in a washcloth, and put it against your neck if the pain you’re experiencing stems from a recent injury.
However, if your neck pain came from our sedentary lifestyles, you’ll be better served by a heating pad, bath, or steamy shower. The heat’s magic is in its ability to loosen up muscles and stiff joints.
Although there’s disagreement about acupuncture’s beginnings, conservative estimates put the practice at over 2000 years old. And over those past two millennia, it has been used extensively to treat diseases and muscular issues, but only in recent years has it made ripples among western medical practices. In 2009, a study was conducted on over 14,000 patients in Germany that linked acupuncture to neck pain relief. And despite fears about needles, acupuncture is a safe and relatively painless experience.
Better yet, not only is it effective on a muscular level, but acupuncture offices are peaceful. The rooms themselves offer a chance for you to get some mindful breathing and light meditation in while the needles do their work – two bonuses that can only help your pain dissipate.
Sometimes, your neck just needs a little TLC. Look for a massage therapist in town that comes recommended for neck pain – or ask your friend or partner to help loosen your neck up after a long day of staring at a screen.
If your neck pain has been bothering you for weeks or months, a single massage just isn’t going to cut it. What you really need then is a professional trained in cracking and aligning our bones. Scour Yelp for a chiropractor with positive reviews and a bounty of accreditations to ensure you get the best treatment.
Yoga can sometimes be touted as a cure-all for chronic diseases and pain conditions, and unfortunately, this miracle-worker status makes a healthy lot of us skeptical of its efficacy. However, in a study done in the Journal of Pain in 2012, yoga was shown to significantly reduce neck pain.
To get stretching now, Yoga Journal has these simple poses for easing neck pain. By taking a few minutes out of your day today to stretch with intention, you could be going a long way in relieving your neck from the strain of the modern world.
Perhaps the most unique – and involved – remedy I came across in my research was embarking on a six-week pilates program. According to a study done in 2013, committing to a pilates class can significantly quell your neck pain. A cross between aerobics and yoga, pilates focuses on strength building and intentional motions: a double hitter that can help keep neck problems from spiraling down the line.
Looks like it’s time for us to dust off those leggings and start stretching!