Time with family, your social life, hobbies, even your work—it’s so hard to focus, to really get through the day.
Not to mention, well… it hurts. And neck pain is its own special sort of suffering. We know how hard it can be, and we’re here to help you. Let’s run through it: why you’re in pain, what’s causing it, and what you can do.
Here’s how you can start feeling better right now.
Let’s Talk About Your Pain
Do you work a desk job? Have you been in a recent car accident? Maybe you just text a lot and you’re constantly looking down at your phone.
Depending on the cause, neck pain can come in a variety of different forms and severities—from a pinched nerve to whiplash or postural problems to major injury.
If you’re reading this guide, chances are you know this kind of pain well, and it’s not just central to the neck, but can affect the shoulders and even cause headaches. It can be relative to one spot or it can radiate and fan across your whole upper body, including the arms. You may also experience numbing of the arms, muscle weakness and mobility issues.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, here are some of the most common neck pain instigators:
- Injuries and Whiplash
- Growing Older
- Spinal Stenosis
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Poor Posture/Daily Habits
How Do I Know if It’s Serious?
When you type “Neck Pain” into Google, one of the most frequently asked questions that pops up is “Is a sore neck a sign of cancer?” Rest assured—that’s actually pretty rare. In fact, neck pain is something that will likely affect most adults at one point during their lifetimes. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but… that doesn’t make it normal.
Simply put: It’s serious. Any amount of pain is serious.
That nagging tension? That knot on the top of your shoulder? It’s all a big deal, because the truth is that we’re not meant to live in pain.
5 Natural Ways to Ditch Neck Pain
So, what can you do to feel better? A lot of people reach for those muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatories, which can actually do more harm than good. Here are some all-natural methods that may be able to help you out.
Not only does inflammation make your muscles more susceptible to pain and injury, but it can also slow down the healing process. When your neck is inflamed, it limits your range of motion, overall strength and flexibility. Since food fuels the body, and can be some of the best medicine around, consider adopting an anti-inflammatory diet that will do the body good.
- Refined sugars and grains
- Processed meat and red meat
- Alcohol and soda
- Packaged foods
- Margarine, shortening, lard
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Wild-caught salmon
- Bone broth
- Healthy fats like organic, unrefined coconut oil
- Probiotic foods (yogurt)
- Fermented foods
For tension and muscle soreness, ice therapy is a great form of pain relief! Cold restricts blood flow and reduces inflammation and swelling. Whenever there’s bleeding in underlying tissue—think sprains, strains or bruising—ice may help! But keep in mind, too much cold can hurt you. Don’t put bags of ice or packs directly on the skin, because that could risk skin, tissue or nerve damage. Instead, wrap it in a soft towel and set it on the area in question. And remember—no longer than 20 minutes a session!
Note that if you have bad circulation, then cold therapy probably isn’t for you. People with cardiovascular disease should always consult with their doctor before using cold therapy.
Many people find success using essential oils topically when they’ve got sore or strained muscles—and it’s definitely worth looking into for natural pain relief. Depending on what kind of pain it is, there are a variety of options to choose from. Here are only a few!
- Peppermint Oil: Cooling and anti-inflammatory
- Lavender Oil: Relief from pain and swelling
- Sandalwood: Tension relief
But wait! Here’s a little bit of essential oil best practice. Most oils must be diluted with a carrier oil, like coconut or almond. There are some oils you can apply “neat” (directly on the skin), however, do your research first and test a small part of your skin to ensure you don’t have a reaction. Also, the essential oil industry is incredibly unregulated; be sure to purchase from a well-known brand that sells certified therapeutic grade oils. For individual recipes, take to the web! There are tons of tutorials you can find on YouTube as well as recipe guides provided by the brand you purchase your oils from.
Bedtime Neck Support
The kind of pillow you use absolutely has the ability to hurt or strain your neck. It’s time to invest in a quality pillow. Look for one that’s made of firmer foam and materials that press back, effectively supporting the head. It’s also crucial that your pillow contours to your head, neck and shoulders, offering built-in cervical support.
Pillows that support your cervical spine actually look a lot different than the ones you’re used to seeing. The center cavity provides support for both your head and neck. This can help you avoid experiencing or exacerbating headaches, neck sprains and strains, tingling and numbness in the arms and hands and more.
The Text Neck Stretch
A common reason for neck pain? Excessive texting! As you look down at your phone, it can push your head forward and hunch your shoulders. This puts strain on the spine and may result in headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain and loss of lung capacity. Of course, working on your posture is key, but stretching can be important too! Let’s open it back up with a quick stretch that may help you find relief:
- Sit or stand with your hands behind your head.
- With your elbows out, slowly squeeze your shoulder blades back.
- Bring your head and shoulders backward, arching the upper middle back.
- Hold this position for 10-20 seconds and then slowly release.
What If It’s Not Enough: Fixing the Root Problem
The tips listed above will help you manage your symptoms, and they’re great for temporary relief, but honestly, they won’t fix anything. In order to eliminate your symptoms for good, treatment needs to address the root of the problem.
So, why are you in pain? What’s actually causing it? The answer may go a little deeper than you expect—namely, your spine.
The neck houses the uppermost part of your spine (the cervical spine) and has the important job of holding up your head. Not only does it have this constant weight placed on it, but it’s one of the most utilized parts of the body.
Think about it—not a day goes by where you don’t actively use your neck. It bends, twists and moves in every way you need it to, and that really opens up its susceptibility to injury, strain and wear and tear.
This constant stress can affect the cervical spine itself, causing misalignments (subluxations) in the spinal vertebrae. These misalignments can wreak havoc on your entire body, because when the vertebrae are knocked out of alignment, it can effectively mute you brain-to-body communication system.
Fixing the Root Problem
They key to reducing joint pain long term is to adjust the cervical spine where vertebrae may be out of alignment, thus causing the nerves to be pinched. A chiropractor utilizes the chiropractic adjustment to manipulate the spine back into optimal alignment—taking pressure off the nerves and allowing the body to function at its best.