We all know the feeling: you're stuck in a rut, worked all day on the computer interspersed with tense messaging on the phone with no end in sight. Suddenly, you realize that your neck and shoulders are tighter than ever and your head is starting to throb. Before you reach for the Advil, try these simple solutions to ease your neck pain and get back on track.
The Importance of Posture
We all know how important it is to have good posture. But did you know that poor posture can actually lead to some serious health problems? Slouching over your laptop or hunching your shoulders can cause things like back pain, neck pain, and even headaches.
But don't worry, there are some easy things you can do to improve your posture. First, make sure you're sitting up straight in your chair with your feet flat on the floor. Secondly, take regular breaks from sitting or standing in one spot. Even while you are sitting down, try to move around by bending forward and backward, and turning to each side frequently. Take frequent mini-breaks by standing up and walking around to add blood flow to reduce tension in your muscles.
Neck rolls, crunches, and more
You can often relieve neck pain at home by resting and trying gentle exercises such as:
One of the simplest ways to relieve neck tension is to do some neck rolls. Slowly tilt your head from side to side, letting your chin fall towards your chest. You should feel the muscles in your neck stretching and relaxing with each roll. Do this for 10-15 repetitions each direction.
Maintain a neutral position for the head and neck. In a shrugging motion, lift both shoulders without moving your head or neck. Move the shoulders in a circular motion, squeezing the shoulder blades together and then releasing them to push them forward. Repeat the motion in the opposite direction.
Clasp your hands together and extend both arms straight above the head. Lean slowly to the left without bending the neck. Keep the arms above the head as you return to the center.
Repeat the movement on the right side.
Another easy way to reduce neck pain is to do crunches. Lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place your hands behind your head and curl up towards your knees, contracting your abs as you go. Return to the starting position and repeat for 10-15 reps.
Treats for achy muscles
You can treat muscle pain with stretches, over-the-counter pain relievers, and heat or ice treatments. Here are some more ideas on how to self-treat those sore muscles.
Heated gel pads and neck wraps allow your neck to receive heat treatments at a constant temperature for up to the full amount of time required.
If you cannot find a neck wrap, you could substitute a hot bath, a steamed towel, a hot water bottle, or, if necessary, a hot shower. All of these, however, do not have the same impact as a wrap or pad due to the application's distance from the body and the rapid decrease in temperature.
Massage, neck exercises, and light exercise will encourage the flow of blood and natural healing properties into the sore area. Massage can promote suppleness and mobility by relaxing and easing strained muscles back into place. Additionally, neck exercises will assist stiff muscles in gaining flexibility.
- You can use your hands to give yourself a neck, foot, or shoulder massage. These are easy to reach and only require light pressure.
- For larger muscle areas such as legs, backs, and glutes, you can use a foam roller. Simply position the foam roller on the floor (or preferably on a yoga mat) and place the body over top of it. Then move your body back and forth over the roller.
- For target-specific muscle groups, you can try using massage guns, heated massagers, and neck, and shoulder massagers.
When giving yourself a light massage, consider using oils to soothe muscle tension and spasms.
- Eucalyptus oil. Eucalyptus has a cooling effect on muscles and reduces pain and inflammation.
- Peppermint oil. Peppermint contains menthol, which has a cooling effect on sore, achy muscles. It also has analgesic, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Ginger oil. Ginger has a warming effect on sore muscles, which helps relieve pain.
- Lemongrass oil. Lemongrass works quickly to reduce inflammation and swelling.
Chinese medicine has had a long history of treating bodily aches and pains. From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain is the result of imperfect qi and blood flow through pathways in the body which leads to muscle and joint pain and common headaches. Some remedies include acupuncture, tui na massage (a deep tissue massage focusing on acupressure points) and cupping (made famous by visible cupping marks on Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps body). Various Chinese herbs for pain relieving and inflammation include Corydalis (Yan Hu Suo) and Notoginseng (Tian Qi) which helps with blood circulation.
With these simple tips, remedies and exercises, you can quickly relieve the tension in your neck and get back to your normal activities. If you or someone else is suffering from prolonged neck pain because of your lifestyle and occupation, consider seeing a professional physical therapist, massage therapist, or acupuncturist to help fit you with the best neck support for your needs. It’s also always a good idea to visit your doctor to rule out anything serious!