Neck pain and soreness is a topic we can all relate to. Just the fact you’re reading this means you’re looking at it from some sort of screen, which is part of the problem.
Every day, we spend hours staring at our computers or phones, tilting our necks for prolonged periods of time. And if you’re one of the many people who work in an office setting, you’re sitting at a desk that’s likely not ergonomically appropriate for you – or anyone else for that matter.
Soreness or pains in the neck can be caused in all sorts of ways, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a life sentence. There are ways to relieve chronic neck pain naturally and effectively, meaning you don’t need to rely on medications or elaborate/expensive procedures only to get temporary results.
Here, we’ll talk about seven different home remedies you can try to make your neck feel great again. They’re all easy to follow, too.
(Suffering from back pain? Check out our 8 Home Remedies that Work for Upper and Lower Back Pain.)
But, before we do that, let’s take a closer look at the human neck. Once we understand how it works, we can talk about how and why it hurts in the first place.
You might remember from your anatomy classes in school that the neck is made up of a series of vertebrae, or bones, that extends all the way down the spine.
In between the vertebrae are cervical discs – little cushions that absorb impact so there’s no bone-to-bone contact. Then, surrounding the neck are muscles and ligaments that also protect your neck and allow the head and neck to move.
Pain and soreness come in a variety of ways. The most common is soreness due to staring at screens all day.
Tilting your head to stare at your computer or phone puts you in the hunched position, which strains the muscles and soft tissue around your neckand can manifest into many issues from headaches to referral pain or numbness to your arms and hands. In fact, 90% of headaches come from stress and muscle contractions.
Having poor posture compounds the issue, as it then puts the entire body out of alignment. Other causes for soreness include sleeping in the wrong position, whiplash, and other sudden jerks of the neck from, say, exercising, or athletic activity.
Once you move past general soreness, pain can result in several ways, including arthritis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, or even just the act of getting older. For some, spondylosis, or degeneration of the cervical discs, can cause great pain as the cushion keeping your vertebrae separated gets thinner and thinner.
There’s another source of pain or soreness yet to be discussed – injury. Getting injured – whether through sports, a car accident, or other methods – is the most dramatic and sudden path toward neck pain and soreness.
It can lead to cervical discs being damaged or herniated, which then puts pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. The result? Pain.
This is my story. As a professional motorcycle racer for 20 years, a bad accident in 2003 caused a cervical compression that left me feeling like I had sandpaper in my neck. I had muscle spasms, pain throughout my body, and constant headaches. I tried traditional medicine but never saw any real improvements.
Fortunately, realigning the approach to natural healing helped tremendously, as the human body is incredible at finding ways to heal itself. By applying and maintaining these methods, you can keep neck pain and soreness at bay and not feel trapped by an invisible cloak of pain.
Before continuing, we have to stress again: You know your body best. There’s a difference between soreness, pain, and a legitimate injury. If for any reason you’re in doubt, seek medical attention before continuing.
The soreness you’re feeling is a result of your neck muscles being overused. So take a minute to stretch them out, just like you would any other body part after strenuous activity.
Stand up and roll your shoulders forwards for a few rotations, then backward.
Because we have a tendency to hunch over, after your shoulder rotations, squeeze your shoulder blades together a few times as welland inhale deeply.
Bring one shoulder to your ear a few times, then repeat the motion with the other shoulder/ear. There’s no need to rush the motion, either. Take your time with it and you’ll feel the stretch on the side of your neck. Embrace it.
Apply ice or a cold compress to your sore neck for up to 72 hours (but in no more than 20-minute increments–you could give your skin a cold burn), then apply heat treatments after that using a heating pad, heat compress (a sock filled with rice works), or taking a hot shower.
Ice will reduce the initial inflammation of the muscle(s), while heat will promote blood flow to the area, introducing oxygen and nutrients your muscles need to regenerate and recover.
Neck soreness and pain are so common among us simply because we practice bad posture. This is largely because our environment is not ergonomically correct. We’re staring down at screens and our chairs are painful, but we don’t do anything about it.Repetitive stressors like this are the top cause of neck pain.
It’s time for a change. Put your monitor at eye level so you’re not staring down, and try a standing desk, too. This will help promote better posture and better blood flow.
If standing is not an option, look into ergonomic office chairs. These help promote better posture and spinal alignment as well. Best of all, whether you go with the standing desk or ergo chair, many companies will actually provide these things for you if you ask.
If your company won’t provide one, or if you’re looking to upgrade your home office, either option is worth looking into. Think of it as an investment in your health. Whatever chair you use, position your feet flat on the floor, with your hips slightly higher than knee level.
While we’re on the topic of ergonomic chairs, opt for ergonomics keyboards and mouses, too.
One last thing: don’t scrunch your phone between your shoulder and your ear. This creates a major strain on your neck muscles. Use an earpiece, a headset, or use the speakerphone option instead.
Remember: Proper Posture!
This applies to all facets of life, but considering the stressors of everyday life – especially now with a global pandemic changing our definition of “normal” – it’s important to take stock of what’s important, what isn’t, and just take a breath.
From a physiological standpoint, stress causes us to get tense and scrunch our neck. The more we stay calm, the looser and more relaxed we are.
Like other facets in life, staying in shape brings with it a multitude of advantages, not least of which is having stronger muscles – including neck muscles – so you either don’t get sore as easily, or you recover faster. Better heart health allows for better blood circulation, bringing essential oxygen and nutrients to your neck muscles in a more efficient manner.
Basically, if you’re whole body is in good shape, your neck will be, too.
Sleeping is your body’s way of recharging and restoring, but sleeping the wrong way can have the opposite effect.
If you’ve ever had a stiff neck then you know all too well what we’re talking about. If you’re a stomach sleeper, you’re straining your neck for long periods of time, which is why you wake up with neck in serious pain.
Instead, try sleeping on your back or side, on a firm mattress, and try a special neck pillow if you have to. This puts significantly less strain on the neck and helps you to feel rejuvenated when you wake up.
We’ve saved the best for last, as the massage is not only an effective home remedy, but it feels great too! Using a product like the Backmate allows you to target the neck as no other product can.
You can roll the pain away by applying just the right amount of pressure to reduce inflammation, increase circulation, and loosen up those tense neck muscles.
Massage relaxes the nervous system, increases dopamine levels, and reduces cortisol – the stress hormone. This leads to reduced spasms, lower stress levels, and a greater balance in your nervous system. When you feel better, you sleep better.
And as we just learned in the point above, the body (including the neck) loves a good night’s sleep.
Neck pain and soreness are all too common in our society. Thankfully, there are easy and effective remedies to help us feel better. All we have to do is care more about our well-being to implement these strategies. The systems in our bodies are all interconnected.
If the system at the top is in good shape, this will help the others get there, too. Massaging and healing with active recovery by incorporating the Backmate will help establish a habit of preventative care and lasting health.