Massage therapy is the preferred option to help relieve neck pain . A qualified massage therapist can offer great relief for people with this common problem, however the relief may be temporary or it may recur. Keep reading this article where you will find tips to relieve and strengthen the neck .

The suggestions below are intended to give people with this problem self-reliance tools to prevent a recurrence of neck pain – or at least to aid in your pain management efforts at home.

Fortunately, most neck pain cases are not serious. Rule out traumatic incident, tumor, fracture, pressure on the spinal cord, infection, and cardiovascular obstruction , the most likely culprits for neck pain are muscle strains and osteoarthritis .

Some possible physical reasons for neck pain

Neck muscle tension can be the result of repetitive movements or holding sustained positions. Some examples include:

• Poor sitting posture, while at a desk or computer.
• Work your shoulders forward, which causes your head to tilt back.
• Sleeping in an uncomfortable position.
• Sitting in a car more than normal.
• Looking up several times – for example: painting a ceiling or looking at the stars.

The arthritis or age – related changes can result in bone spurs and reduced disk space on the cervical vertebrae. Arthritic joints are more prone to inflammation from repetitive movements or sustained posture than healthy joints.

Emotional stress causes neck pain

Another etiology of neck pain is emotional stress . Stress is known to precede apical breathing patterns, that is, from the upper part of the lungs. Together, stress, breathing, and neck muscles cause muscle tension. If this tension is maintained, a compressive force is exerted on the cervical vertebrae.
Waking up with a stiff neck or intensifying neck discomfort can be very painful. Luckily, a long list of massage therapy techniques can help release hypertonic neck muscles, activate blood circulationand increase range of motion. However, a therapist’s intentions must go far beyond providing immediate pain relief. A patient should be sent home with a list of suggestions that they should make themselves to help deal with this discomfort or even prevent it from happening again.

7 Tips to Relieve Neck Pain

1. Stress relief

While tension will aggravate neck pain, relaxation can ease it. Suggestions for accomplishing this feat include deep abdominal breathing , meditation, visualization, and other relaxation techniques.

2. Frequent breaks

Although sustained positions promote muscle tension, this practice is deeply ingrained in our culture. If you drive long distances or work long hours in the same position, be sure to take frequent breaks. The “breaks” are the most used to stretch, breathe deeply, take a sip of water and return to the correct posture.

3. Exercises and stretches

While some must be prescribed by a physical therapist, a therapist may suggest exercises and stretches for the neck, as long as they do not cause pain. Exercises and stretches help reduce neck pain by restoring muscle function , optimizing posture to avoid overloading the muscles, and increasing the strength and endurance of the neck muscles. These may include: Circular rotation of the shoulder blades; extension, flexion and rotation of the cervical; stretching of the pectoral muscles; strengthening the shoulder muscles and isometric exercises.

4. Heat and cold therapy

Most doctors suggest alternating heat and cold to help a sore and stiff neck. Reduce inflammation by applying a cold compress for 20 minutes several times a day. Alternate this approach with heat, a hot shower, or a hot compress, for up to 20 minutes. Heat can help relax sore muscles, but it can aggravate inflammation if the area is red, hot, and swollen.

5. Evaluate Ergonomics

Adjusting conditions in workplaces like office and home to relieve unnecessary neck strain can go a long way in preventing cervical discomfort. This includes the proper placement of a desk, chair, computer, and telephone so that the screen is at eye level, the knees are slightly below the hips, the arms rest comfortably on the armrests of the chair, and the neck is in a relaxed neutral position while talking on the phone.

6. Deliberately sleeping

Since a lot of neck pain can arise from poor sleeping position, planning a sleeping position can prevent a sore neck. Avoid sleeping on your stomach and use a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck. Back sleepers are advised to use a cylindrical pillow under the curve of the neck, with a flat pillow to cushion the head. Side sleepers should keep their back straight by using a pillow that is higher under the neck than on the head. The goal is to avoid bending the neck at night.

7. Tennis socks and balls

A simple home appliance can be used for self-administered cervical acupressure. Put two tennis balls in a sock and tie the sock so that the balls are stationary. Place the tennis balls under the occiput so that they are putting pressure on the hollows under the skull on either side of the spine (gallbladder 20) for about 10 minutes. Resting on this device can help relax tight back neck muscles.

With a fast-paced society, stress and muscle tension are major sources of neck pain. In fact, a person who has suffered from neck pain in the past is four times more likely to end up with a recurrence of the problem . Although, armed with these seven strategies, massage therapists can empower their clients to overcome neck pain – and prevent its return.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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