Some pains in the neck are unavoidable- traffic, home repairs, mosquitoes in the wetland. Neck pain, an annoying, immobilizing, and/or excruciating sensation, is a pain in the neck that can be avoided or treated. Finding the time to take care of oneself can cause more stress, indeed one of the very causes of the pain! Here are a few tips that can keep you moving along without reservation.
To avoid chronic pain from recurring, EXERCISE. Once the pain has lodged in your neck for a while, it is often hard to do this, so try to keep up a decent regimen at all times. Some general suggestions are stretching and walking with a tall posture. When stretching, remember to breathe and allow gentle, freeing movements with your neck. YouTube has many videos to show you, if you don’t have other instruction. Try a few to see what works for you.
To walk with a tall posture means that as you walk, make sure you are erect yet fluid. Imagine a rope holding you up from the tiptop of your head that will fall straight down to the ground. Often, people will lean forward, so look in a passing window as you walk to check your lean. The lower part of your back supports the neck, so that means you should be aware of any over-curvature or tightness in your lower back. Also, some exercises that strengthen your abdominal muscles (lower belly muscles that swing around to your back) will definitely help hold up your neck in a proper posture.
I have found that the ancient practice of QI GONG (pronounced Chee Gung) can be smooth, easy, flowing and extremely beneficial to neck pain. It is best to take a series of classes to understand just how to do it. Then once you know the exercises, you can simply do them anywhere on your own. There are a lot of arm rotations in various directions that very gently, yet quite effectively, reduce neck pain. Certainly worth seeking out.
Then there is YOGA. Ah, yoga. Whenever my neck starts to tinge with that impending feeling, I know that yoga will help ME. I do stress ‘me’ because some people have cervical disc (neck bones) problems where they really do need to be careful about trying to keep up with a fast paced yoga class. I suggest gentle yoga, if you don’t know what you’re doing, or even chair yoga. There are a few poses- you will find which ones- that you can do at home to get some quick relief.
OK, so the moment you have all been waiting for from the acupuncturist: ACUPRESSURE! 3 points I like for neck pain can be done at your desk, on a walk, on the train, in a bus, in a car, on a plane! (My homage to Dr. Seuss) My #1 point is called si3. I like to pinch it for best effect. The location of si3 (small intestine meridian, though no connection to the small intestine in this case) is on the side of your hand, just below the pinky knuckle- it is not on the finger, but on the hand. Grab that little muscle! Press and pull a little for best effect.
#2 point is called sj5 or san jiao 5. To locate it, put your pointer, middle finger, and ring finger together (scouts honor!). Lay them on your other arm, on the hairy side, so that the ring finger is lined up with your wrist. You can lift that hand a little to exemplify where the wrist really is. Now, on the far side of the pointer finger, there is a ditch between 2 forearm bones. That (whew!) is sj5. Press very hard here, even using your nail to give more direct pressure. This relieves neck pain.
#3 point you can try is LI4 or large intestine meridian point 4, the big pain management point. It is also considered a good ‘releasing’ point. You will find it in the fleshy area between your forefinger and thumb. Feel around until you are at the belly of that little muscle. That is where you press hard!
Also, while doing this acupressure, be mindful of your neck lengthening- you can envision small breathing spaces between your neck bones. This exaggerates the healing process.
A few more little quickie mentions that do need mentioning are as follows. Adjust your pillow properly for neck support- try a few ways, and usually what feels right is right, though the best way may seem awkward for a short time. Consider getting a new pillow or a special neck support pillow. Also consider your mattress- is it too old, too soggy, not supporting your lower back (see above for that connection)?
One of the biggest reasons for a pain in the neck is repetitive motions and repetitive postures such as at a desk. Adjust your chair. Adjust your computer screen. By all mean adjust your keyboard so your arms are level or slightly tilted downward. If your boss can accommodate you, great! If not, consider that what investment you may have to make will save you money and time in the long run.
Now that you have done all or most of the above, and you still are suffering, I highly recommend acupuncture for neck pain. Also helpful are chiropractic treatments andmassage therapy. These can of course be utilized simultaneously with all your personal efforts.
Reduce your stress. Oh, yes, that little thing. Well, do the best you can, as it will help you on a number of fronts. In the case of neck pain, stress is often a precipitating factor or an integral factor.
As a final note, I want to point out: the sooner the better! Like most ailments, if your neck pain goes on for a long time untreated, then it will take a long time to heal. If you catch it right away, making changes as mentioned, you will find a much swifter road to recovery. Because, really, who wants a big pain in the neck around anyway?