Neck pain is a common condition that affects up to half of US adults each year. The neck (cervical spine) is made up of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. The bones and neck muscles support the head and enable movement. Any injury, inflammation or other abnormalities can result in chronic neck pain and stiffness. If untreated, the pain in the cervical spine area can lead to further serious complications. If you experience pain or other symptoms that are chronic, immediately consult a pain management physician. Leading multi-specialty pain management and rehabilitation centers based in Brooklyn, NYC offer effective treatment modalities that help address the pain and stiffness associated with this condition.
When it comes to managing neck pain, it is not only important to treat the area of the pain, but also identify the root causes. The pain can occur anywhere in the neck – from the bottom of your head to the top of your shoulders, and also spread towards the upper back or arms. Common causes include – incorrect body posture, muscle strain, worn joints, overuse injury and nerve compression. Incorporating neck stretches and some simple exercises into your daily routine is one of the best ways to improve posture and reduce the risk of neck pain becoming worse.
When Should You Start Exercising?
If you wake up one fine morning with an aching neck, you can start practicing simple exercises to ease stiffness and pain. Resting for a long period, (more than a couple of days), will make it harder to get moving again. However, if you experience severe neck pain or weakness while exercising, stop right away and consult a pain management physician.
To prevent or reduce the intensity of neck pain, try these simple exercises –
- Neck Tilt – Sit or stand with a good posture looking straight ahead. Tilt your head up and look towards the ceiling, then tilt your head down so that your chin touches your chest. Hold this position for at least 5 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat. Repeat this exercise five times.
- Chin tuck – Leaning over a computer screen, scrolling the mobile screen or slouching on the couch in front of the TV is becoming the norm now. These static postures can weaken the muscles of the neck and create extra load on the spine. Chin tuck is an exercise performed to improve the flexibility of the subocciptal muscles in the upper part of your neck. It can be performed both while standing and sitting.
- Sit upright and look straight ahead.
- Place a finger on the chin.
- Without moving the finger, pull the chin and head straight back until a good stretch is felt at the base of the head and top of the neck.
- Hold for 10 seconds if possible.
- Bring the chin forward again to the finger.
- Repeat for a total of 10 times, or as tolerated.
- If you find it difficult, build up slowly or try lying down with a pillow behind your head.
- Tilted forward flexion – This is a good exercise to perform during work, especially if you have to keep your head in a steady position for extended periods (like when working on a computer).
- Sit in a chair and keep your neck straight.
- Slowly lower your chin towards your chest.
- Hold for 5 seconds and then return to starting position.
- Do this at least 10 times.
- Trapezius muscle stretch – This exercise not only releases tension in the lower neck region and the trapezius muscles, but also increases the flexibility of the spine.
- Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor, back straight, and shoulders down
- To stabilize your stretch use one hand to either hold onto the side of the chair or place it under your buttock
- Tilt your head away from the stabilizing arm
- Bring your ear towards your shoulder until you feel a stretch
- Place the other hand on your head and gently use it to increase the stretch
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat this movement twice on each side
- Levator scapulae stretch – Running between the upper part of the shoulder blades and the top four cervical vertebrae, the levator scapulae is a thin, flat muscle located just below the upper part of the trapezius.
- Sit up straight with good posture keeping both hands at the sides.
- Raise the right arm forwards and reach over the back with the hand grasping the right shoulder blade and applying downward pressure.
- Rotate your head 45 degrees to the left (which is about halfway toward the shoulder).
- Tilt the chin downward until a good stretch is felt on the back right side of the neck.
- Hold for 30 to 60 seconds, or as tolerated.
- Repeat on the other side.
- SCM (sternocleidomastoid) muscle stretch – This exercise is performed to increase the flexibility of the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) – one of the largest muscles of the neck. Tight SCM muscle makes the jaw protrude forward which in turn pulls the head out of its correct alignment. Stretching allows the muscle to relax and return to its normal length so the jaw can stay in its correct position.
- Sit comfortably in the chair
- Hold the chair with your right hand and use the left hand to support your head
- Bend the neck forward, side bend to the left, and turn head to the right
- Lean body to the left and slightly forward
- Hold and repeat the sessions
- Repeat stretch on the other side
Neck pain treatments at reliable healthcare centers in Brooklyn, NYC include a wide variety of non-surgical treatment options that help reduce pain, inflammation and other related symptoms. Mild type of pain can be treated using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen), ice or heat applications, TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) or other remedies. Other treatment programs include – physical therapy (includes therapeutic exercise programs such as gentle strengthening, stretching, and aerobic exercises) and chiropractic care (gentle manipulation of the joint to reduce pain).
In some rare cases, if patients don’t experience full recovery with any of the above non-surgical treatment methods, surgery may be considered an option for relieving nerve root or spinal cord compression.