Neck pain can be eliminated with just a few simple exercises. Knowing what works and when to do the exercises will help you live a happy and healthy life.
Who is affected by neck pain?
According to a study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, neck pain is a serious problem in high-income countries. Residents of the United States have a 50-50 chance of developing nonspecific neck pain.
Nonspecific neck pain can be chronic or acute. Risk factors include being an older woman with a highly demanding job, smoking, and having a low amount of support at work. Even though neck pain is common in high-income countries, people with low incomes are more likely to develop it than people who have higher incomes.
Symptoms of nonspecific neck pain include numbness in the limbs, decreased neck mobility, headaches, and migraines. Over-the-counter medication is used to treat the pain and inflammation, but alternative therapies like mobilization, mindfulness, and acupuncture are often better choices.
How is neck pain defined by chiropractors?
At Better Health Chiropractic in Juneau, we regularly see patients with neck pain, usually with acute rather than nonspecific conditions. According to a study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, acute neck pain develops quickly and lasts for a short amount of time. This injury is usually “caused by a sudden force, a traffic-related whiplash injury, for example; straining the neck while lifting; or maintaining a prolonged awkward posture; or it may have an insidious onset.” While the acute condition is often induced by trauma, it can also be caused by problems in the shoulder or arm.
How can neck pain by treated with exercise and qigong?
In this same study, chiropractors treated patients with acute neck pain and gave them exercises to relieve it, including both qigong and exercise therapy.
Qigong is a practice focused on postures, breathing work, and movement conducted slowly and deliberately. It works the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, as well as connective tissues, and is known to calm the mind. In the nonspecific neck pain study, patients who used qigong saw their pain reduce with regular sessions, but return when exercise was stopped. Overall, they experienced mindfulness, physical quietness, and more energy while practicing it.
Patients who were treated with exercise therapy also saw positive results. Patients reported feeling empowered by this therapy because the exercises reduced their pain. At the same time, their overall posture and general wellbeing improved. Many patients continued exercising after the study was over because of its effectiveness.
If you are interested in trying qigong, it is usually taught at schools that also teach Tai Chi, as the practices are closely related. If neither are taught in your area, there are also online programs and videos that you can watch to learn the techniques.
Moreover, you can do home exercises to get neck pain relief. By strengthening and stretching the muscles around the neck, shoulders, arms, and core, you can prevent future pain. You can do these on a daily basis.
What neck stretches are most effective for pain relief?
There are four useful neck stretches:
- Bending the head from side to side (lateral flexion)
- Dropping the chin to chest (flexion)
- Dropping the back of the head and lifting the chin (extension)
- Turning the head from side to side (rotation)
When patients visit chiropractors for neck pain, these stretches most often used to set baseline measurements. Doing these on a regular basis will improve your neck pain in measurable ways. In addition, you can try to place the back of your neck on the floor for a stretch to improve flexibility in the neck and relax your shoulders.
How can yoga strengthen the neck?
Strengthening the neck is also a key element to reducing pain. To start, add resistance to stretching exercises. When you drop your head to the side, put your opposite hand to hold it down. Then, use resistance to create a deeper stretch. Don’t overdo it, or you might pull a muscle. Repeat on both sides. You can use your opposite hand on any of the neck stretches, but integrate resistance slowly because neck muscles are easily strained.
Yoga exercises, including cobra pose, locust pose, half tortoise, and camel pose, also work the neck and shoulders. Often taught in Bikram yoga classes, these postures involve gentle backbends that work the spine, shoulders, and neck. In a research study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, yoga improved range of motion, strength, and balance, as well as overall quality of life. More studies need to be conducted to understand all the benefits. However, early studies have been promising. Doing specific poses for neck pain can help your pain significantly.
About Dr. Brent Wells
Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.