Neck Pain Relief Exercises

Safe and effective exercises to relieve neck pain caused by poor posture, injury or general stiffness.

These exercises are designed to abolish pain in the neck and restore full mobility. You should perform these exercises within a pain free range of motion, never exercise into a pain, only to the “edge” of pain. If exercising to relieve stiffness, use your hands to apply overpressure and achieve maximum range of motion.

Observe for three effects when performing these exercises:

  1. Symptoms may disappear
  2. Pain intensity may increase or decrease
  3. Pain may move to another location in your body

Your neck pain may be confined to the neck only, or it might spread as far as your shoulders and arm. When performing these exercises, observe closely the changes in location of your pain. To determine if the exercises are good for you, widespread pain should start to localize to the neck. The effects should be fairly rapid, within ten to twelve repetitions.

Note that on performing these exercises, pain intensity may initially increase yet it should start to diminish with practice, at least to the original intensity. If the pain continues to increase in intensity or spreads to other regions of your body, stop exercising. Do not continue with the exercises if your symptoms are much worse immediately after exercising and remain worse the next day – seek professional advice.

Before starting with these exercises you should familiarize yourself with the origins of neck pain and the potential causes of neck pain.

Exercise 1 – head retraction in sitting

Sit down, look straight ahead, allowing your head to relax. Notice your head will protrude slightly. Keeping your chin tucked down and in, move your head back as far as you can. Ensure your focus stays straight ahead and that you don’t extend your neck such that you are looking at the ceiling.

Maintain this position for two seconds then relax back to the starting position. Perform ten repetitions, six to eight times per day. You can also add overpressure by placing both hands on the chin and firmly pushing the head back even further.

If this exercise causes pain, replace it with exercise 3.

Exercise 2 – Neck extension in sitting

Remain seated with your head in the retracted position. Lift your chin up and tilt your head backwards as in looking up at the ceiling. Whilst your head is tilted backwards, turn your head left and right so that your nose moves 2cm from the midline, all the time attempting to move the head and neck further backwards. Repeat the movement rhythmically and not too slowly.

Perform ten repetitions, six to eight times per day. If this exercise causes pain, replace it with exercise 3.

Exercise 3 – Head retraction in lying

Lying flat on the floor, push your head into the floor and at the same time tucking your chin in. The overall effect should be that your head and neck move backwards as far as possible while you keep facing the ceiling.

Maintain this position for two seconds then relax back to the starting position. Perform ten repetitions, six to eight times per day.

After performing this exercise, evaluate its effects on the pain. If the pain has localised or decreased in intensity, you can safely continue the procedure. If the pain has increased or extends further away from the spine, or you develop pins and needles or numbness in the fingers, stop the exercise and seek advice.

Exercise 4 – Neck extension in lying

Lying face up on a bed, place one hand behind your head, then move up the bed until the head, neck and top of your shoulders are extended over the edge of the bed. While supporting your head with your hand, lower it slowly towards the floor.

Now remove your hand, tilt your head and neck as far backwards as you can and try to see as much of the floor as possible. In this position, turn your head left and right so that your nose moves 2cm from the midline, all the time attempting to move the head and neck further backwards. Repeat the movement rhythmically and not too slowly.

Once you have reached the maximum amount of extension, try to relax in this position for 30 seconds. On returning to the starting position, ensure you use one hand behind your head to assist your head back to the horizontal position. Do not rise immediately after performing this exercise, rest for a few minutes with your head flat on the bed.

As for exercise 3, this exercise is for the treatment of severe neck pain. This exercise should follow exercise 3 and should be done only once per session. Once you no longer have severe pain, replace these two exercises with exercises 1 and 2.

Exercise 5 – Side bending of the neck

Sit on a chair, holding your head in the retracted position. Bend your neck sideways and move your head towards the side on which you feel the most pain. Note, do not turn the head so that your nose moves towards your shoulder. Rather, ensure you keep looking straight ahead by attempting to touch your shoulder with your ear. Keep the head retracted throughout the movement.

Increase the effectiveness of the exercise by placing the hand of your more painful side on top of your head, then gently but firmly pulling your head further towards the painful side. Maintain this position for two seconds then relax back to the starting position.

This exercise is specifically for the treatment of pain felt on one side of your neck, or more to one side than the other, that does not improve with exercises 1 and 2. Until symptoms have localised, perform ten repetitions, six to eight times per day.

Exercise 6 – Neck rotation

Sit in a chair, holding your head in the retracted position. Turn your head as far to the left then to the right whilst keeping your head retracted at all times. If you experience more pain on turning to one side, continue turning to this side repetitively.

The pain should localise to a smaller area or decrease in intensity. If it does not, continue to exercise by turning your head to the least painful side. Once you have the same amount of pain or no pain, and only stiffness when turning to either side, continue to exercise by turning to both sides.

Increase the effectiveness of the exercise by using both hands and gently but firmly pushing your head further into rotation. Once you have maintained the position of maximum rotation for two seconds, return your head to the starting position.

Perform ten repetitions, six to eight times per day. Always follow exercise 6 with exercises 1 and 2.

Exercise 7 – Neck flexion in sitting

Sit down looking straight ahead. Drop your head forwards and let it rest with the chin as close as possible to the chest. Place your hands behind the back of your head and interlock your fingers. Let your arms relax so that your elbows point towards the floor. The weight of your arms will pull your head down further, bringing your chin closer to your chest.

Maintain the position for two seconds then return to the starting position. Perform three repetitions, six to eight times per day.

This exercise is specifically for the treatment of headaches but can also be used for residual neck pain and stiffness once acute symptoms have subsided. Always follow this exercise with exercises 1 and 2.

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

Neck Pain Causes

Neck Pain Causes

Causes of neck pain and the things you need to know to relieve it

Common causes of neck pain include trauma from accidents, postural stresses, and working in awkward positions or cramped spaces. Unfortunately, we are limited in the things we can do to protect against unforseen accidents, hence this article focuses on what we can do to limit neck pain elsewhere in our daily lives.

When moving about, we assume a fairly upright posture with the head retracted and held directly over the vertebral column receiving maximum support. In relaxed sitting, the head and neck slowly protrude because the supporting muscles gradually tire and no longer support good posture. The pain we feel in our neck is caused by the overstretching of ligaments for prolonged periods in this protruded position. Other instances include lying or sleeping with the head in strained positions.

The cervical lordosis is the curve at the back of your neck when viewed from the side. Office workers usually sit in a slouched position, hanging their head forward of the shoulders and protruding the chin thus losing the lordosis completely. Pain from working in this position is relieved simply by correcting the posture, however, habitual poor posture will result in changes to the structure and shape of the joints of the neck, and lead to more complicated injury.

Prolonged sitting situations

The position of the low back strongly influences the posture of the neck, do not allow it to slouch or become rounded whilst sitting. Correct sitting posture is vital. You should also interrupt protruded head posture with regular intervals and postural relief exercises.

The correct head posture whilst sitting requires you to keep the head retracted. The extreme of the retracted head position is that which gives the appearance of a double chin, and is actually a position of strain. Sitting comfortably and correctly requires you to hold your head just short of the extreme retracted posture. To find this position, first retract the head as far as possible and then release the last 10% of this movement. This is the correct head posture and can be maintained for any length of time.

If you find yourself sitting for large portions of the day, your aim should be to restore correct posture and then maintain it. Pain will start to decrease as you improve your head posture, and you will have no pain once you can maintain the correct posture. Pain will reoccur in the first few weeks if you allow your head to protrude, but eventually you will be pain free even when you momentarily fall out of good posture.

During this period of posture re-training, expect to feel some new pains, possibly in different places. These pains are the result of performing the postural relief exercises and holding new head positions. They should wear off in a few days provided postural correction is continued on a regular basis.

Lying and resting

Postural stress in the lying position is another cause of neck pain. If you wake up in the morning with pain and stiffness in the neck that was not there the night before, the problem is possibly due to the sleeping surface or position in which you sleep.

Your pillow functions to support your head and neck. You might need to change the material from which it is made, the thickness, or both. The pillow should fill the curve behind your neck without tilting the head or lifting it up. Ideally, the head should be able to rest on a “dish-shaped hollow” so you need to be able to adjust the contents of the pillow easily.

Beware of pillows made of moulded foam. Many of these pillows do not allow their contents to be adjusted and always adopt the shape of their original mould. These pillows do not allow the head to rest into a “dish-shaped hollow” and rather tend to apply a recoil pressure against the natural position the head would like to adopt. You should be able to adjust your pillow such that you can make a hollow for your head to lie in whilst still being able to bunch the edge of the pillow to form a thick support for your neck.

If the lying posture itself is thought to cause neck pain, it should be investigated for each person individually. In short, it is better if you can sleep on your back or your side. Some people prefer to sleep on their stomach and frequently wake up with a headache or neck pain and stiffness.

When lying face down, the head is turned to one side to allow breathing and avoid squashing the nose. In this position however, some of the joints, particularly those in the upper neck, approach the maximum degree of rotation. This strains the surrounding soft tissues of the neck and those between the upper neck and head.

Try to avoid lying face down when sleeping if you are waking up with neck pain. In addition, there are recommended exercises to ensure you can properly retract the head, extend the neck properly and have adequate range of motion when turning the head.

 

 

Cooling down after intense exercise

After exercising, avoid sitting or lying with the head in a protruded posture. Thoroughly exercised joints in the spine easily distort if they are held in an overstretched position for too long. Commonly, the exercise is blamed for the cause of neck pain but in many cases it is attributable to the prolonged forward bending of the head and neck when relaxing afterwards.

Working related causes

Some jobs can only be performed in positions likely to cause overstretching of the joints in the neck. These jobs may require sitting and performing precision work (microscopy, watchmaking) or working in cramped spaces with the head and neck in awkward static positions.

It may not be practical to prevent the onset of neck pain by regularly assuming the correct posture. Instead you will need to interrupt positions of overstretch frequently by performing the relevant neck exercises.

The neck has a tough job – holding your head on top of your shoulders every day. Try to become more aware about the positions you find yourself in more frequently and asses yourself as to whether you are likely to be causing your neck unnecessary strain. If you can prevent neck pain from occurring, you won’t ever have to worry about how to having it treated – that’s just a pain in the neck.

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

Neck Pain Explained

Neck Pain Explained

Possible explanations as to why your neck hurts.

The structure of the joints in the neck allows a large degree of flexibility in this part of the spine. The neck can also move relatively more freely than the rest of the spine as there are no additional bony structures attached in this region, such as a ribcage or pelvis. Without the support and protection of other structures however, the neck is more vulnerable when subjected to strain. Its very flexibility, so helpful and necessary for everyday living, is also the cause of many of our problems.

During upright standing, the head should be carried directly above the shoulder girdle forming a cervical lordosis. This is the small inward curve, observed from the side view, just above the shoulders. Postural neglect sees people carrying the head in front of their body with the chin poking forward. This alters the cervical lordosis such that the joints of the lower neck are bent forwards, whereas those of the upper neck are bent backwards. This is called forward head carriage or protruded head posture, and if present often or long enough, neck problems may develop.

Pain may arise in a neck joint when two opposing bone surfaces are placed in a position that overstretches the surrounding ligaments and other soft tissues. This position could be one where your head is slouched all the way forward, backward, to the side or any combination. At first, there may be only minor discomfort, but as time passes, if the joint is held in a position of overstretch, pain develops. The pain warning encourages you to stop overstretching to avoid damage. If you do so, the pain ceases immediately and no damage occurs.

Failure to heed the warning system may lead to ligamentous and soft tissue tearing. This produces an aching sensation that continues even when you stop the overstretching position. The pain may reduce in intensity but continues even when the neck is at rest. The pain increases with movement in the wrong direction and ceases only when some healing has occurred. Healing should only take several days but will be prolonged if you continue to apply the same strains to the neck each day.

It is often thought that neck pain is caused by strained muscles. These structures can be overstretched, but usually heal rapidly due to their dense blood supply and seldom cause pain lasting for more than a week. It is usually the ligaments and joint capsules underlying the muscles which are injured first. These tissues provide support for spinal joints and will injure if subjected to forces of overstretch.

The real problem stems from pain in and around the affected joint. An outside force may place a sudden severe strain on the neck either due to an accident, sudden movement or sporting event. More commonly, overstretching is caused by postural stresses placing less severe strains on the neck but over a longer time period. When the tissues heal they may form scar tissue that is less elastic and shorter in length than healthy “un-injured” ligamentous tissue. With the formation of scar tissue, normal movements now become painful as they stretch the “scars” in these shortened structures.

Sometimes the ligaments are injured to the extent that the intervertebral discs are affected. The disc loses its ability to absorb shock and its outer wall weakens. This allows the inner contents of the disc to bulge or protrude outside its normal confines and may press painfully on spinal nerves. This may explain some of the pains felt further away from the source of the injury, such as in the arm or hand. Complications of a bulging disc in the neck include: misalignment of the vertebra during normal movement patterns and headaches.

When you hurt your neck, if you simply wait for the pain to pass the tissues will heal somewhat, but they will be more likely to re-injure in the future. You might also be more susceptible to the “terrible” complication of a bulging disc. To avoid this neck pain becoming an ongoing problem, there are appropriate exercises you can perform to stretch and lengthen these tissues gradually, and restore their proper function.

Always seek professional advice the moment you hurt your neck. Physical therapy is an excellent means to speed recovery and promote effective healing of the tissues. Seeing a professional early on can be the difference between fixing your neck pain in less than a week versus one to three months of chronic pain.

To aid in the prevention of neck pain, you should familiarize yourself with other causes of neck pain. Awareness of these causes should hopefully see you avoiding neck pain altogether.

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.