relieve neck pain with these simple exercises & practices
5.5 MINUTE READ TIME
GOLD COAST BLOG
Dr. Paul Fisher
Neck pain is one of those things that can be completely debilitating if you don’t take care of it, but the good news is that there are some simple things you can do to keep everything in good shape and relieve that pain quickly and easily.
The most common cause of neck pain that we see is from people being hunched over their cell phone or their computer for hours and hours at a time. And to be honest, that’s the most important thing to fix form the get-go. You can go through all the exercises and stretches that you want, but if you’re still spending 5 - 6 hours a day hunched over a device, then your results are going to be minimal at best. It’s a little bit like exercising intensely 4 - 5 times a week but then eating doughnuts every day after you train. It just undoes all the work you did and you’re not going to achieve any sustainable results.
So, the first step towards helping with neck pain is to make sure that you’re using the right posture. If you’re sitting at a desk, be sure that you’ve got the right chair and that you’re keeping your head over shoulders, rather than hunching forward. All that being said, even if you have the right posture, you should still be doing whatever you can to limit the amount of time you’re spending on these devices. Not only is excessive use bad for neck pain, but it also has a significant negative effect on your general mental state. The last point on devices is to try and use a night mode or blue light filter in the evenings which makes things a little easier on your eyes and sets you up for better sleep.
The next thing you can do is to do a really simple stretch called the six-way neck stretch. Basically, you’re going to gently pull your neck in 6 different directions, holding for 30 seconds in each position. So first you’ll go to one side and then to the other. Then you’ll move on to going forward and backwards. And then you’ll go to an oblique angle in between. If you imagine a clock with 12 right in front of you, you’re looking to aim at 1.30 and 10.30 respectively – pulling your head generally on that diagonal and then back the other way on the same plain. You can do this throughout the day or it can be a part of your warm-up before your normal exercise. It can be done sitting or standing and it should feel like a nice easy stretch. You’re not trying to crank anything, but just using your hand to give you neck a little bit of extra motion. It’s a quick an easy way to stretch your neck and relieve any built up tension in the area.
One exercise that we hear a lot about but we don’t think is that helpful is the sneck retraction stretch where you pull your chin in to try and give yourself a double chin. While this is widely bandied about, we’ve found that this exercise actually decreases the curve in your neck and flattens it out which is something you don’t want. The ideal position is to have a nice curve in your neck as this is actually a huge predictor of a healthy neck. When you merely do the retraction motion to create a double chin, it flattens things out. This is another reason why cell phones, tablets, and the like are so damaging for your neck because the more time you spend hunched over them, the more you start to lose that curve. The muscles on the back have to work even harder and as a result, the bones get subluxated, constricted, or locked. In simpler terms, they just don’t do what they’re supposed to do.
What you should do instead is to jut your chin out, look up slightly, and then pull back. This can feel a little strange but what this does is it improves the curve in your neck. As a result, doing this stretch for 10-15 reps, three times over, is a quick and easy way to relieve neck pain. And the best part is, there is no equipment needed meaning you can do it at your desk, on the train, or wherever you are.
The other thing we get a lot of questions about is how people should be sleeping. Everyone is on the lookout for the best pillow, mattress, and sleeping position to relieve the neck pain that assails them when they’re awake. The unfortunate truth here is that there is no hard and fast rule, or miracle solution. Typically, we advise that people try and sleep on their side or on their back as much as possible, but in most cases people move around so much during sleep that the chances of you staying in that position throughout the whole night is slim.
Regarding pillows, the only advice we have is that you don’t want to be propped up on tons of pillows. This replicates the same hunched over posture as if you were looking at a cell phone. Instead, you want to keep things as close to flat as possible. You can definitely try some of the ergonomic pillows that are marketed these days, but really, the only thing that matters is that you find something comfortable that works for you.
Lastly, there are a range of benefits both physical and mental from getting your sleep hygiene right. There are a couple of simple things here:
- Cut off all electronics 30 minutes before going to bed.
- Avoid any hardcore action or drama movies before going to bed so your brain can start slowly resetting as it winds down.
- Make sure to sleep in a dark, cool room.
- Try to go to bed at the same time every night so your body gets used to the routine.
If you get these right, you’ll have better sleep which will help with neck pain as well as energy levels, fatigue, irritability, and so on.
We hope that these small concepts can be helpful for you in dealing with neck pain and trying to alleviate it. As with anything, the best results come from small changes done consistently, so put these into action and you could be surprised at the results over time.
Dr. Paul Fisher