The Universal Guide To Neck Pain: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know Straight From The Experts
A pain-free neck is a lot like the carefree days of our youth — we don’t appreciate it ‘til its gone. Neck pain can make life feel pretty unbearable and affect your social life, family time, hobbies and even work productivity.
If you’re reading this, chances are you’re familiar with neck pain. Whether you’ve just woken up with a whopper of a crick in your neck, sustained an injury or have been dealing with chronic neck pain, this handy guide can help you understand the anatomy of your cervical spine, different causes and types of neck pain, and learn more about the common treatments for neck pain.
Although neck pain is commonly caused by strain, prolonged pain may be an indication of something more serious. Photo Source: 123RF.com.
Stress Poor Sleep And Physical Ailments Over Time Can Lead To A Pain In The Neck
Everyday life isn’t kind to the neck. You may be all too familiar with that crick you get when you cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear, or the strain you feel after working at your computer.
Neck pain rarely starts overnight. It usually evolves over time. And it may be spurred by arthritis or degenerative disc disease, and accentuated by poor posture, declining muscle strength, stress, and even a lack of sleep, said Dr. Zacharia Isaac, medical director of the Comprehensive Spine Care Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and director of interventional physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.
The following six tips can help you find neck pain relief:
The Best Pillows For Neck Painto Help Reduce Aches And Pains When You Sleep
Designed for cervical spine support, these specialist best pillows for neck pain are an investment to reduce aches and pains
The best pillows for neck pain aim to keep your head, neck, and spine in alignment as you snooze. With a top pick from our guide, you’ll sleep comfortably and soundly every night.
When it comes to finding the best pillow for you, it’s all down to personal preference. But, if you’re experiencing neck pain at night or feel stiff in the morning, it might be worth investing in a pillow specifically designed to alleviate pressure on the neck.
Just like the best pillows for back pain, pillows for neck pain aim to keep your body in neutral alignment. They ensure your head, neck, and shoulders are supported and at the optimum height to avoid any unnecessary pressure or strain.
To help you find the best pillow for neck pain, we tested a range of popular brands with pillows made from different materials. No matter your or budget, there’s something for everyone in our guide.
How To Relieve Neck Pain: 3 Ways To Relieve Neck And Shoulder Pain
If you’re experiencing neck pain, you’re not alone. Between 20% and 70% of adults in the US will experience neck pain that’ll disrupt some aspects of their lives. Few things are quite as unpleasant as incessant neck pain, especially when nothing seems to make it go away. For many people, common treatments like ice pads, painkillers, and ointments that work for other types of pain are ineffective for their neck pain.We’re here to help with the following pain relief solutions for your neck and shoulders.What Causes Neck Pain?Most cases of acute neck and shoulder pain are a result of tendon and muscle strains or ligament sprains. These strains and sprains may talk a few days or weeks to heal. Other common causes of neck pain include:Trauma: Physical trauma such as whiplash from an accident or a sports injury can cause neck and shoulder pain.Awkward sleeping positions: If you sleep without proper head and neck support, you’re likely to suffer from neck pain.Poor posture: Hunching or slouching for extended periods can place extra stress on your neck which can result in neck strain or ligament sprains. It’s a good idea to be aware of your posture when working or using digital devices.
How Do Health Care Professionals Diagnose Shoulder And Neck Pain
A thorough history and physical examination are usually adequate to establish the diagnosis for most injuries. However, your doctor may do a series of tests, depending on the cause of your injury, the location of your pain, or your other symptoms. The list is extensive and may include X-rays, an electrocardiogram , blood tests, and CT scans.
- X-rays: These may be done if you have tenderness to touch along the bony areas of your spine or shoulder, a history of significant trauma, deformity of the area, or your doctor suspects a condition related to your heart or lungs.
A treatment plan will be developed after a complete history and physical examination . Treatment options vary for each condition. Clearly, a simple strain is treated far differently than a heart attack.
How Mindfulness And Meditation Helps Neck And Back Pain Relief
Last up in our exploration of alternative therapies to learn how to relieve neck and back pain is practicing mindfulness and meditation. These techniques are meant to provide greater stress relief and stress management. While some stress can actually be beneficial to our systems, too much stress going unmanaged is one of the most commonly overlooked causes of back pain and neck pain.
As an ancient practice, there are many different types of meditation you may want to try to see which works best for you. One of the easiest methods to start with is mindfulness meditation. This technique is not about completely clearing your mind, but instead allowing your thoughts to come and go without judgment. It’s a great way to center yourself and manage stress levels. Meditating doesn’t have to be an all-day event, either. Even making 5 to 10 minutes each day for meditating can make a noticeable difference.
Other meditative techniques may include breathing techniques or pain movement. Pain movement involves concentrating on the area you’re experiencing pain then envisioning that pain moving along your body to an extremity and eventually out of your body altogether. While we can’t truly force injury from our bodies, this type of meditative process may help with the mental side of how to relieve neck and back pain.
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What Are The Most Common Nonsurgical Treatments For Neck Pain
If you are experiencing chronic pain , it is important to seek medical attention for further evaluation and treatment. Treatments for neck pain vary, depending on the cause and duration of the neck pain you are experiencing. Many neck pain patients find relief in using one or a combination of these therapies. The most common treatments include:
Medications: Both over-the-counter and prescription medications may help manage neck pain, reduce inflammation, and decrease muscle spasm and sleep disturbance. The first line of treatment when it comes to neck pain medication is typically non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications , such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and acetaminophen . Some NSAIDS can be applied topically to the skin, such as Voltaren Gel and Aspercreme; other topical treatments include Icy-Hot, lidocaine based patches, and CBD creams/ointments.
“Prescription medications such as muscle relaxers and nerve pain medications are sometimes considered,” says Dr. Bonte. Muscle relaxants are used more often for acute pain rather than chronic pain.
For those with neuropathic neck pain, injections including a steroid and pain reliever may be effective, especially if done in conjunction with physical therapy. Ablation of the nerves near the neck joints may improve mobility and reduce pain, too.
Complementary therapies:Alternative treatments may be helpful in managing neck pain. Some of the more popular complementary therapies for treating neck pain include:
The Benefits Of Heat Therapy For Neck And Back Pain Relief
Another alternative therapy for neck and back pain relief is heat therapy. This form of treatment for neck and back pain may be effective as heat therapy works to increase blood flow throughout the body. This increased circulation helps muscle and soft tissue heal more quickly, can work as a home remedy for swelling or inflammation, and has been shown to be effective for pain relief.
There are two main types of heat therapy: dry heat therapy and moist heat therapy. Dry heat options include more common tools you may consider like heating pads. You might also combine alternative therapies for neck and back pain relief using a zero gravity chair with both heat therapy and massage features to really enhance your healing experience. Moist heat options are activities such as using a steamed towel across the affected area or taking a hot bath.
The Best Pillows For Neck Pain As Reviewed By Our Experts
This Kally Sleep Cervical Neck Pain memory foam pillow features a butterfly shape with a divot in the middle that gently cradles the head, while simultaneously offering cervical support. Filled with soft memory foam, the slow-rebound inner is medium-firm in density, coming in at a seven on a scale of 1-10.
The breathable, 100% cotton outer will also help those who tend to suffer from overheating at night or who often find themselves waking up feeling hot and wondering how to get back to sleep in the middle of the night. It’s slightly smaller than a standard pillow so it’s wise to invest in bespoke covers as extras, which can be bought online. Kallysleep also offers a 14-night trial so you can test it out for a couple of weeks to ensure it’s the right fit for you.
If you’re one who finds yourself tossing and turning at night or has all the best intentions of sleeping on your back and finds you’ve flipped around onto your front in the morning, then finding one of the best pillows for neck pain to work for you is no mean feat.
While front sleeping is not really recommended and it can cause neck issues for some, if you’re unable to sleep any other way, then this strangely shaped offering—the MARNUR Contour Memory Foam Pillow Orthopedic—might help.
The hundreds of foam Nanocubes inside the Simba Hybrid pillow gently cushion your head, neck, and spine while also creating a supportive base.
Is It Better To Sleep Without A Pillow To Avoid Neck Pain
Is it better to sleep without a pillow to avoid neck pain? Or, does sleeping without a pillow actually lead to neck pain? There are a few advantages of sleeping without a pillow to consider, especially for your posture.
Sleeping without a pillow will actually help extend your back and help you rest in a more natural position, possibly without any aches or pains. At the same time, using a pillow that is too soft will strain your neck muscles and reduce the flow of blood to the head.
Overall, sleeping without or with a pillow is a personal choice. That being said, here are some sleeping without a pillow benefits that you need to know:
Natural Treatment For Neck Pain From A Bad Sleep Position
Massage therapy is a non-invasive, gentle way relieve neck tension and pain. It is particularly effective when used for patients whose neck pain can be clearly identified as connected to a specific recurring incident, such as bad sleeping positions.
If you sleep on your stomach or with your neck propped at an acute angle, you may awaken to a painful surprise in the morning, and the neck pain may last throughout the day. If you have neck pain that you think is the result of sleeping with your neck at an uncomfortable angle, contact us at BodyWorks Medical Center for treatment and prevent a recurrence with a neck support while you sleep.
A qualified therapist from Bodyworks can help you identify sore areas and apply gentle massage therapy.
A soft curved pillow or bolster shaped pillow that conforms to the natural curvature of your neck and the back of your skull can support your neck naturally, and sleeping on your back or side can help you position your neck at a natural, comfortable angle so you wake up well-rested and pain-free.
Use a rice-filled sock, lightly heated in a microwave and wrapped in a hot, wet towel, to create a flexible neck “pillow” that delivers moist heat to the pain point and allows your neck muscles to relax.
Adjusting Your Posture To Prevent Neck And Shoulder Pain
It might not be obvious, but posture has a cascading effect on other parts of the body. Paying attention to your core strength and lower back can ease strain on your neck and shoulders.
Take the wall test to adjust your standing posture.
- Stand with your head, shoulder blades, and buttocks touching the wall
- Keep your heels around 2 to 4 inches away from the wall
- Put your hand behind the curve in your back and touch the wall with your palm
Your hand should fit neatly inside of this space.
- If the fit is too loose, tighten your abdominal muscles
- If it’s too tight, arch your back
Remember what it feels like when you find the right spot. This is the standing posture you want to maintain as much as possible. Do the wall test daily as many times as you need to.
Adjust your sitting posture
If you spend a lot of time behind a desk, fixing your sitting posture is especially important.
- Avoid crossing your legs
Neck And Back Pain Relief Using The Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique may be an alternative therapy for neck and back pain relief you’ve not heard of before. In fact, while studies have shown its potential effectiveness for pain relief, it’s still commonly overlooked or unheard of altogether by pain sufferers.
Developed originally as a method for protecting vocal health for actors, the Alexander Technique has found other uses, like neck and back pain relief, as well! This alternative therapy focuses on relieving tension that causes neck and back pain. Sometimes it’s referred to as “inner-ergonomics” as the Alexander Technique also looks to improve posture without overcorrecting .
The Alexander Technique is a light touch neck and back pain relief method. Though a hands-on therapy technique, the gentleness of it helps minimize risk of injury. During the technique, relief is meant to begin in the neck region then continue along your entire body.
What To Consider When Purchasing A Pillow For Neck Pain
Most people don’t give much thought to their pillow, beyond choosing a pillow that’s nice and squishy for immediate comfort. This means that when we do realize our pillow may be contributing to our neck pain, we may not know how to go about choosing a proper one. Shoppers in this position may be susceptible to misleading marketing and end up choosing a pillow that’s ill-suited for their needs.
To help you get started, we’ve made a list of the most important factors. Focusing on these factors and having a basic understanding of how pillows work can help you find the pillow that works best for you.
Stretching And Strengthening For Neck And Shoulder Pain
Stretching and strengthening help relieve pain and also build up muscle support to prevent future injuries. These gentle exercises should not make you feel any additional pain, so if they do, stop right away and consult a healthcare professional.
Here are three simple stretches to relieve neck pain.
Use these stretches as a warm up to your strengthening exercises.
Here are two exercises to help prevent future neck pain and injuries:
Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for 5 seconds. Don’t squeeze too hard; it should feel comfortable. Repeat 10 times twice a day.
Keeping your neck in a neutral position, do a wall pushup with your feet shoulder-width apart and your elbows straight. Repeat 10 times with 1 to 2 sets. Do this twice a day.
Stretching exercises for shoulder pain
These stretching exercises help loosen up the tight muscles that cause pain and can improve flexibility to prevent future injuries.
Neck And Back Pain Relief Using Zero Gravity Chairs
Next up in our exploration of alternative therapies for neck and back pain relief comes zero gravity chairs. We’ve already mentioned some of the bonus features of zero gravity luxury recliners that may enhance pain relief, however the function of these tools themselves may noticeably help, as well.
What is a zero gravity chair? These are chairs that recline into the zero gravity position. No, you won’t be floating around in your living room . Instead, the zero gravity position refers to the reclining position of your chair which was designed based on observations by NASA of the relaxed body position of astronauts in space.
In the zero gravity position, the legs are elevated above the heart level and your weight is distributed along your body. This makes an enormous difference when choosing between a zero gravity chair or recliner as pressure is drastically reduced along the lower back and pelvic areas. In traditional recliners, pressure is actually focused in this area, making them part of the problem when it comes to neck and back pain.
As pressure is reduced on the lower back, muscles can relax more and blood flows more efficiently. These results are some of the major contributing factors for how zero gravity chairs may help neck and back pain treatment at home.
Bonus Tip: The zero gravity position also makes zero gravity chairs popular for sciatica treatment at home!
Be Careful How You Use Your Phone Or Tablet Device
One way you may not even realize that you’re aggravating your neck is by cradling your phone while talking, which puts extra stress on your cervical spine. It is also common for people to bend the head forward while looking down to read a phone or tablet for hours a day, which can contribute to painful neck strains or text neck.
Avoid neck pain from phone use with these tips:
- Use a hands-free headset to make calls.
- When you’re browsing or texting, hold the phone up higher to decrease the angle at which you’re holding your neck.
- Take frequent breaks to stretch your neck.
Hopefully at least a few of these 9 tips give you some new ideas to try for neck pain relief.
Stretches That Will Relieve Neck Pain And Tension
Stiff neck? The area above your shoulders is one that commonly holds tension, especially if you’re sitting at a desk all day or constantly staring down at your phone screen.
According to research, neck pain may feel like a “kink,” stiffness or severe pain. This pain may spread to the shoulders, upper back or arms, or it may trigger headaches and cause numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms.
In general, neck pain refers to pain anywhere from the area at the base of the skull into the shoulders. And technology is one of the major culprits. “As a culture we put our necks through hell with our reliance on technology, which creates forward head carriage, and results in neck muscles that go into spasm and refer pain into our heads, temples, and even behind our eyes,” says Brad Butler, chiropractor and author of “The Blueprint for Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide to Nonsurgical Solutions.”
“The most common causes of neck pain are either postural or positional. The modern-day life style of sitting at a desk looking over a computer for multiple hours unfortunately leads to a forward head position where the skull moves forward of its placement on the first cervical vertebra,” says Lara Heimann, physical therapist and creator of LYT Style Yoga. “Every millimeter that the skull is off-center places a strain on the posterior neck muscles. These muscles on the back of the neck have a chronic stress and load on them that creates tension and pain.
What Is The Best Pillow Positioning For Neck Pain
Sleep experts recommend either back or side sleeping if you suffer from neck pain. Sleeping on your stomach causes your head to bend at a sharp angle and arches your spine, which puts unwanted pressure on your neck. Strict stomach sleepers should choose a pillow with a low loft to minimize pressure.
For best results, back and side sleepers should ensure that their head, neck, and top of the spine form a straight line. Sleeping with a pillow that’s too high or too low can cause aches and pains. Likewise, sleeping with your head rolled to one side or the other is also likely to cause neck pain.
Natural Treatment For Neck Pain From Poor Posture
Sitting staring at a screen that’s at a low height in relation to your eye level can cause significant and chronic neck pain. If you think your neck pain is posture-related, ask your BodyWorks medical professional to help identify neck positions that are most likely to prevent discomfort.
Raising the screen to eye level and straightening your back, shoulders, and neck can help ease neck pain from poor posture by removing the cause of the neck strain. If you need help remembering to keep your neck and back straight, run a strip of kinesiology tape from your hairline down your spine. When you curve your neck or shoulders downward, the tape alerts you to the change in posture so you can correct it.
You can also ease and prevent neck pain from poor posture doing a series of neck rolls and exercises several times a day. Use a slow, controlled motion to stretch tense neck muscles and relieve neck pain. Your BodyWorks chiropractor can help develop a series of stretching and strengthening exercises to both prevent and treat neck pain long-term.
How To Relieve Neck Pain: Remedies And Exercises
Long hours at the computer and gazing at smartphones can leave you with tense neck muscles and lingering pain. Bad posture and incorrect sleeping positions are also common culprits when it comes to neck pain and stiffness. It’s a common problem, with around 20% of the population reporting experiencing neck pain at some point. Have you woken up with a stiff neck or felt tense, painful sensations in your neck? Read on for insights on how to relieve neck pain.
What Is The Prognosis For Shoulder And Neck Pain
Because most neck and shoulder pain is caused by sprains and strains, you can expect a full recovery or to recover with minor limitations on your activities.
Some conditions require hospitalization, surgical repair, physical therapy, or other rehabilitative measures. The extent of recovery may be complete or limited. Some conditions can be recurrent or persistent; thus, you should have a treatment plan to learn how to deal with and adapt to any limitations.