Suffering from neck pain? You’re not alone. Up to 70% of Americans experience significant neck pain at some point in their life, whether caused by injury, poor posture or an underlying medical condition. Neck pain can greatly impact your day-to-day life and can be frustrating to treat using conventional methods. Let’s explore the different causes of neck pain, what other symptoms may accompany your pain, and how to treat neck pain naturally.
Why Neck Pain Is So Common
In order to understand how to treat neck pain, it’s important to understand that the neck—also referred to as the cervical spine—is a complex structure made up of seven distinct vertebrae, beginning at the skull and extending all the way down to the upper back. Structures within the neck include muscles, skin, arteries, veins, lymph nodes, thyroid gland, and more—so problems with any of those structures can contribute to an overall feeling of neck pain. Not to mention that your head weighs approximately eight pounds, so your cervical vertebrae put in quite a bit of work to hold it up everyday.
Because of this, it’s easy to see how neck pain can be such a common occurrence. A strain or sprain in the neck can easily cause the surrounding muscles to tighten, limiting your range of motion and causing significant pain.
What Causes Neck Pain?
Neck pain can be caused by a variety of different conditions. It’s important to have chronic neck pain examined by a doctor so you can get to the root cause of your pain and treat it properly. Common causes of neck pain include:
- Neck strain or injury
- Poor posture or being hunched over your computer
- Common infections/viruses that cause swollen lymph nodes
- Stress, which can cause you to hold tension in your neck
- Pinched nerves
- Degenerative disk disease
- Sleeping in an uncomfortable position
What Other Symptoms Can Accompany Neck Pain?
Because your neck is such a complex structure between your head and back, neck pain can radiate to other areas and cause other symptoms as well. For most conditions, neck pain is described as a “dull ache,” but the type of pain can vary depending on which condition is causing it. Depending upon the cause, you may also experience headaches, shoulder pain, facial pain, back pain, or tingling along with your neck pain. If you have a chronic condition such as fibromyalgia, your neck pain will present with symptoms typical of fibromyalgia, and the same goes for other chronic conditions.
9 Ways To Treat Neck Pain Naturally
If your neck pain is the result of an underlying medical condition or serious injury, it’s important to check with your doctor to decide on a treatment plan that may include physical therapy or medication. However, if your neck pain is caused from day-to-day stress, poor posture, or exercise, here are nine simple things you can do to start feeling better. While medication is often a treatment for neck pain that’s caused by specific medical conditions, you can also try these nine natural ways to treat your neck pain.
Studies have shown that the ancient practice of acupuncture can be more effective at treating chronic neck pain than more traditional remedies like medication or physical therapy. Acupuncture is based on the belief that there are over 2,000 points on the human body that connect with 20 meridians. These meridians or “pathways” conduct energy or “qi” throughout the body. Acupuncture uses extremely thin needles and places them in specific combinations of these 2,000 points to correct the body’s flow of energy and alleviate pain. It can take a few acupuncture visits to start feeling relief, so give it a little time.
Related: How To Relieve Headaches With Yoga
2) The Proper Pillow
It could be that your sleep habits are causing your neck pain. Sleeping in an uncomfortable position or on an uncomfortable pillow can quickly throw your neck out of alignment. The two best sleeping positions for your neck are on your side or on your back, and the type of pillow you use can also contribute to neck pain. Try these tips to find a better pillow and alleviate neck pain for good:
- Use a feather pillow or memory foam pillow that easily conforms to the contour of your head.
- Avoid using too high a stack of pillows, which will inadvertently keep the neck flexed and stiff overnight.
- If you sleep on your side, keep your spine straight by choosing a pillow that is higher under your neck than your head.
3) Hydrotherapy or water therapy exercise
Hydrotherapy or water therapy exercise can greatly reduce neck pain, especially if you suffer from osteoarthritis. Aquatic exercise like water aerobics is gentler way to increase your range of motion and ease pain than land-based exercise.
You can also add Epsom salts to your bath to help treat neck pain. This is because the magnesium found in Epsom salts decreases inflammation and muscle pain. Simply add two cups of Epsom salt to a warm bath, and soak in the tub as your muscles relax.
A study published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that patients with chronic neck pain found significant relief after a six-week Pilates program.Pilates moves like the head nod help to stretch out the neck and spine, while the full-body roll up increases strength throughout your spine, neck and ab muscles. Pilates helps you realize that everything in your body is connected, and even small movements can become meaningful when they help strengthen and lengthen the neck and surrounding muscles to alleviate pain.
5) Ice and Heat
There’s a lot of confusion over whether you should apply ice or heat to ease pain. The truth is that ice is better for injuries, while heat is ideal for muscle sprains or spasms. If you’ve pulled a muscle in your neck, try heat after any initial swelling has gone down; if you have an injury like whiplash, try icing it with a cold pack.
It may sound simple, but staying hydrated can be the key to alleviating neck pain and preventing future issues. The discs between the vertebrae in your spine require water to maintain spinal alignment and take pressure off the spine. Over time, staying well hydrated can help prevent further damage to your cervical discs, lessening your chances of future neck pain.
Massage of the neck or surrounding muscles can help ease tension and break up the fascia in your neck. Even some light cranial massage can be beneficial since the head and neck are so intertwined. Regular massage will also help keep your joints limber, which will decrease the chance of pulling or straining muscles in the future.
Sometimes some good old fashioned stretching can help reduce neck pain by breaking up tension. Relieve tight spots in your neck with some gentle yoga poses that not only diminish pain but open up space in in your head for more oxygen. Inversions like downward dog get oxygen flowing and can not only alleviate pain but help the body naturally detoxify.
9) Chiropractic Care
If your neck pain isn’t responding to the remedies above, sometimes a professional may be needed. Chiropractors work by making manual adjustments to your spine; we suggest if you are looking for a chiropractor, to find one through referral. Because there are so many out there, if you know someone who’s has a chiropractor he/she recommends, a referral is your best bet.
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