Have you ever woken up in the morning with a stiff neck? Maybe you weren’t even able to turn your head without feeling a sudden pain? Neck pain can be just as frustrating as it is physically limiting. Following these tips to help get you back to your normal routine.

Check your stress level

Neck pain most often occurs after having an increase in stress in your life. It’s important to take a minute and assess what current stressors there are in your life.  Ask yourself these questions to survey what your current stress situation looks like:

  • Do you have any new stress in your life? 
  • Have you recently made any changes to your routine?
  • Has it been a stressful week at work?
  • Are you spending more time than usual sitting?

Any number of these daily stressors can play a part in causing your neck pain. Here are some tips to use breathing techniques to de-stress. 

Practice good posture

Poor posture is often a cause of neck pain. Check-in on your posture to see if that is an area where you need some work. Work on sitting and standing tall. Follow these 5 steps to ensure that you are in proper posture:

  1. Find neutral spine.
  2. Contract your core by drawing your belly button in towards your spine.
  3. Lift your chest.
  4. Drop your shoulders down and back. Imagine that you’re trying to put your shoulder blades into your back pocket.
  5. Lengthen your neck. Tuck your chin slightly and lift through the top of your head up towards the ceiling.

To learn more about how poor posture may be contributing to your neck pain, read this article. 

Keep moving

When in neck pain, it may be hard to imagine moving or doing anything, but movement can help speed up the healing process. Here are some tips to keep moving.

Start small. On your first few days, you may only be able to take a short walk around your home, that’s fine! You may even find that you cannot fully stand up straight, due to the pain. Listen to your body and begin walking more, as you are able to tolerate. 

Measure your progress. Whether it’s for a specific amount of time or distance, keep track of how much you’re walking each day. Not only will this show you the progress you’re making, but it can serve as motivation to keep moving.

Take time to stretch

If you spend most of your day sitting, it’s important to find time to lengthen and stretch the muscles that support your neck. Try this simple series of stretches to open your chest and neck throughout your day:

  1. Stand tall and hold your hands together behind your back with your palms touching.
  2. Extend your elbows and draw your shoulders together behind you, keeping your hands close to your body.
  3. Lift your chin up toward the ceiling. Hold for several breaths then return your head to the center.
  4. Next, turn your chin and look to one side. Hold for several breaths and then repeat on the opposite side. Return your head to the center.
  5. Then, turn your chin and look down, bringing your chin down toward your collarbones. Hold for several breaths. Return your head back to the center. 
  6. Tilt your head to one side. Hold for several breaths and then repeat on the opposite side.
Optimize your sleep environment

Be mindful of your sleep positions. Sleep on your back or side and use a pillow that supports the natural curves of your neck. Avoid sleeping on your stomach as this causes you to twist your head to the side while you sleep and also puts your low back into poor positions.

When selecting a pillow, make sure that it conforms to the shape of your neck. Your pillow should keep your neck and head in proper alignment. Down and memory foam pillows offer great support. Make sure that your pillow is not too flat or too tall that it takes you out of proper alignment.

Use ice and heat to manage your pain

Icing your neck can help to reduce swelling and muscle spasms. Make sure to wrap your ice or cold compress in a towel or pillowcase, as placing a cold pack directly on your skin can damage it. 

Icing guidelines: Ice every 3-4 hours for only 20-30 minutes at a time. 

Heat can be used to help relax tense muscles in your neck. Try taking a hot shower to loosen up your muscles. Heating pads can also be utilized to help loosen up your neck muscles.

Heating guidelines: Use heat throughout the day as tolerated. 

Whichever you choose to use, both ice and heat can be helpful in managing your neck pain. Try using one, or both depending on what feels best for you.

Honing your ‘healthy neck’ habits

Getting out of immediate pain is the first step in keeping your neck healthy. Following these tips should help you lower your neck pain level in a few days. Once you start feeling better, make sure to continue working on these ‘healthy neck’ habits. If you would like to know more information about techniques to get out of neck pain, connect with one of our Telespine Health Coaches.

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