Doctor of Physical Therapy, Rachel Tavel, is no stranger to neck pain. Having worked as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, she's had experience working with all kinds of necks - and seen clients go from bed bound to back at the gym in just a few days.
Here are her 4 top tips on how you can remove that debilitating pain from your neck and get back into action:
Most people never even think of training their neck in the gym - and it's best to be careful as your spine is so delicate! But it has to carry your head (which weighs at least 5kg!) around all day; strengthening your neck can be a great, safe way to quickly reduce neck pain.
Here's a simple and easy one: try some chin tucks.
Begin lying down. Gently tuck your chin in towards your neck, to create a double chin. Try to keep your eyes looking straight forward, focusing on lengthening out the back of your spine. You should feel a stretch at the base of your skull and an activation of muscles in the front of your neck.
Hold this exercise for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat 8 to 10 times daily. For a bigger challenge, try lifting the head slightly off the table while maintaining this position and hold for 10 seconds each time.
The muscles in and around your neck can often get tight from daily stresses - tension can build up which can cause uncomfortable feelings over time. Try and stretch these out for a simple, effective way to reduce discomfort.
Start by stretching the upper traps. While standing or sitting, bring one ear to your shoulder and apply gentle pressure with that same hand. (If you're stretching to your right shoulder, use your right hand and gently rest it on your left ear to activate the stretch). Be gentle. If it doesn't feel right, stop. But you should be able to hold this stretch for up to 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
If you feel there is a “knot” or trigger point, or an area of that is specifically painful or tight, try self releasing with a foam roller, massage or with a massage ball (any kind of hard plastic ball should do the trick). Apply direct pressure for about 10 seconds, slowly moving your chosen tool around the area, then release to promote blood flow to the area.
Note - this can be painful, but a 'good' pain indicates that the muscle is receiving the work it needs to relax. You can ask a friend to help you out here - and if they can't get enough pressure, lie down and get them to use their elbow on the spot that's hurting you. Start slowly and work your way up!
For many of us that spend a long time sitting at the desk, our posture can be a root cause of back and neck pain over time.
While standing or sitting, try to avoid sustained positions with the head tilted downward or the chin jutting out. Think about the chin tuck exercise while you’re sitting or standing and try lengthening your neck, as if someone was pulling a string from the top back of your head up towards the ceiling.
That's all from us! Thanks for reading and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Remember, take care - sometimes the best healer is time. Don't rush your recovery and injure yourself in the process. This too, shall pass :)