Did you just wake up one morning with neck stiffness, neck pain? Or did you have a stabbing sensation around your shoulder blade and you can’t turn your head? Do you feel pain radiating to your shoulder, deltoid, wrist or hand? Chances are that these symptoms start in your neck.
Here are strategies to get through it and back to feeling great.
First, try to identify the cause of your neck pain. Did you sleep in an awkward position? Did you overexert yourself the day before? Spend too many hours at the computer leaning into the screen slumping in your chair?
Next, reach out to someone in your network to help you — a good massage therapist, acupuncturist, physical therapist, doctor or physiatrist.
Rest lying down on your back with head on a low pillow. Apply a moist heating pad for 20-30 minutes. Longer if you have the time. Constructive Rest, breathing and meditation can be extremely helpful. It is amazing how much mindful breathing in a supported position can melt away overall body soreness and tension.
Feldenkrais arm movements. Make the arms into a shelf by holding onto the forearm/wrists perpendicular to the torso. Keep a loose hold on both wrists and let the arms fall to the side. Breathe. Breathe deeply. Alternate sides 3x. These are my favorite neck exercises, which really help with neck pain.
Exercise Balls. I have nubby balls, and balls made with spikes to dig into the trigger points. Get some small balls to place under your shoulders, neck or back to dig into the painful or tight spots, wherever they help with the pain. You will want to use balls smaller than tennis balls. Golf balls are the perfect size but much too hard. You can probably find a rubber sports ball that’s the perfect size in your the gym section of big box stores or in a local sports store. Rubz for instance should be perfect.
Heat or Ice for at least 15-20 minutes. Different people respond differently to ice and heat. If you have an electric heating pad with a sponge for moist heat, or a microwavable heating pad, lie on it for 15-20 minutes, longer if you have the time. If you prefer ice and have gel packs, great. If not, many use a large bag of frozen peas or corn as an ice pack. You can also make your own by throwing 8-12 cubes of ice into a drip free plastic bag. If using ice, be sure protect your skin with a moistened towel.
Finally, don’t forget to take an anti-inflammatory medication, depending on your beliefs about medication. Your doctor may recommend something – use what works best for you. Many people swear by ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and store brands). Or you might prefer Naproxen, aspirin or Tylenol. There are any number of topical creams or patches from the drugstore that may help. A homeopathic cream with arnica used by many people is Traumeel. If you live near Chinatown, you can find some great remedies there. Take something that works for you that will take the edge off the pain so you can begin to work your way through it. Tumeric is known to be good for pain. Lavender and chamomile teas before bed are relaxing.
Another tip. Paradoxically, I have found hip stretches to be great relievers of neck pain — secretary stretch, hip stirs, knee-to-chest stretch and the wonderfully relieving figure-4 stretch (sometimes called thread-the-needle).