Dr. Kimberly McMillin, a family practitioner at Baylor Medical Center in Garland, Texas says that “neck pain is one of the most common aches people experience in their lifetime.” The good news about a pain in the neck is that it is most often not the result of a serious injury or ailment. Neck pain is usually a result of repeatedly mistreating your neck in your daily routine or while you sleep.
The phone can be the biggest culprit of neck pain, especially if your job requires you to talk on a traditional receiver. If you are using your shoulder and neck muscles to hold the phone in place while you talk, even if you use a phone holder, that could be the single worse action for your neck. Switch to a wireless headset and relax while your neck heals and the pain stops.
Heavy lifting is another offender of healthy neck muscles. Whether it’s a child, groceries or boxes, heavy lifting puts more strain on neck muscles than we realize. Want a real surprise? Stop carrying your purse for a week and see if your neck pain is packed inside your bag. Women have no real concept of the weight they sling over their shoulders for hours a day.
Guys and students who carry backpacks and messenger bags are also in danger of neck strain and pain. Although many bags are designed ergonomically, you are asking your neck to shoulder a heavy load every time you sling a bag over your shoulder.
So what to do to stop a pain in your neck? Start with a shower. Let the water beat on the spot that hurts as long as you can. Use hot water and the massage or “beat” setting on an adjustable showerhead. You can also take along a single-use adhesive heating pad for work, school or travel.
Keep moving. Continually stretch and rotate your neck to keep stiff muscles limber. Avoid pushing your neck too far in any direction that causes increased pain. Move your arms and shoulders so the muscles don’t pull causing the pain to radiate farther into your torso.
Give yourself a massage. Use your index finger or thumbs to find the spot that hurts. It will often be swollen. Apply increasing pressure directly on top of or up from the bottom of the muscles that hurts. Hold the pressure or continue to increase pressure for 20 second intervals. Keep breathing deep breathes. You can also massage the kink in a circular motion with increasing pressure to relax the muscle and increase the blood flow.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist (especially if you’re pregnant, nursing or on other medications) about taking an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to alleviate the pain and swelling. When muscles swell they can cause your neck and back to be unaligned.
If you wake up with neck pain, your pillow is most likely to blame. Consider a pillow designed for the way you sleep. You want to support your neck and not hold it in an unnatural position for 5 – 8 hours each night.
Rest and heat and no heavy lifting or repeated or prolonged positioning – the Rx for getting rid of a pain in the neck.