We stare at our computers and phones for long hours all day and sleep in different positions at night, yet wonder why our necks ache. It’s obvious that our poor posture and work habits are to be blamed. Neck pain is not a new complaint and is becoming even more common due to our lifestyles.1 However, our habits are not the sole culprit; neck pain might be caused due to an underlying medical condition as well.2 In most cases, the reason for the pain remains unknown. Sometimes it may resolve in a week or two (acute) or might even last for longer than three months (chronic). Continue reading to find out more.1
What Causes Neck Pain?
The difficulty that we experience while moving our head, often described as neck stiffness or soreness, may be due to the build-up of tension in the muscles of the neck.2 This can be caused by:
- Watching TV, reading or sitting in a wrong posture
- Sleeping in an uncomfortable position
- Bending over the desk for a long duration
- Uncomfortable seating position while working, especially on your computer devices
- Twisting and turning in unusual positions while exercising
- Medical conditions namely fibromyalgia, torticollis, ruptured disc, spinal stenosis, cervical arthritis or spondylitis, cancer of the spine, etc.2
- Defects or abnormalities in the vertebral column and bones that are present at birth3
Symptoms of Neck Pain:
Neck pain is a condition which is not usually overlooked. Here are a few symptoms that you might notice:
- A sharp feeling of pain in your neck or pain that feels like burning or stinging3
- Stiffness of the neck3
- You may feel like the muscles of the neck are contracting (spasms).
- Pain is felt when the area of the neck is touched (tenderness).
- You might also feel pain in your head, arms and even back.3
Suggested Home Remedies for Neck Pain:
Generally, the symptoms of neck pain gradually fade away. As they go away, they might come back too. The discomfort and pain may cause you to avoid activities, fearing injury or worsening of the condition.1 Let’s not let a pain in the neck disturb our daily activities. Here are some home remedies for neck pain that you can try.
1. Application of Heat and Ice:
The first and foremost home remedy is to apply ice and heat onto the neck. This is very simple to follow. Cold ice, either directly or in an ice bag, should be applied to obtain relief from the stiffness of the neck. For the first two to three days, ice is to be applied; after that, heat can be applied. To apply heat, you may use hot packs, hot compresses or even hot showers.4
2. Massaging the Neck:
Massaging the neck gives instant relief. You can give this remedy a shot and see for yourself. Any type of massage may be beneficial when the right area is massaged. Finding the painful areas and applying pressure to them is the key. The only thing that we need to keep in mind is to keep the massage movements directed towards the heart. There are chances of heart valves getting damaged if too much pressure is applied in the wrong direction, i.e. away from the heart.4
3. Stretching Exercises:
A few yoga poses and mild stretching exercises can help decrease the tension and ease the stiffness of the neck. A few of the exercises include bringing your ears to your shoulders, squeezing both of your shoulders at the shoulder blades, rotating your shoulders backwards, pushing your head backwards, etc.4 These simple exercises may alleviate your pain, so try them and see if they work for you.
Researchers have found that lavender oil used along with acupressure is effective in relieving neck pain.5 You can use lavender oil by diluting it in another carrier oil of your choice and using it to massage the neck gently.
Ginger has various medicinal properties. In an animal study, it was found that the extract of dried ginger and dried gingerol-enriched extract were both effective in alleviating pain and inflammation (analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity).6 You can use ginger directly and also include it in your diet. You may use dried ginger powder in food or use ginger oil to apply over your neck.
6. Devil’s Claw:
Devil’s claw is a plant that is known for its medicinal properties. It is native to South Africa. The part of the plant used for medicinal purposes is the root tuber. It is particularly used for the management of pain. Traditionally devil’s claw has been used in the form of decoctions for pain relief.7 It is usually used as tablets, capsules, liquid extracts, or can be used to make tea. The beneficial effects of devil’s claw for joint problems and muscle problems (common causes of neck pain) are quite evident, but there is more evidence needed in the form of research and studies.
Turmeric, also known as Haldi, and the compounds derived from it have properties that cause the reduction of inflammation (anti-inflammatory property).8 You can use turmeric for neck pain by mixing a little bit of turmeric powder to warm milk and drinking it. You can also make a semisolid paste of it by adding a little water and applying it to the neck.
Camphor has been used in the preparation of many balms. It has been in use for ages for the management of pain, especially arthritic pain and muscle pain, which commonly leads to neck pain. The pain-relieving action of camphor is due to its activity in blocking pain receptors. Its action was seen to provide long term pain relief in one of the studies.9 You can use camphor in the form of oil for application over the neck.
When to Seek Medical Help?
You need to be vigilant and mindful about a few situations in which you need to contact your health care provider immediately and seek help. Seek medical help if:
- You experience extreme pain in your neck along with fever and headache, and the region from your chin to chest becomes stiff, as it may be related to brain infection (meningitis).2
- You experience shortness of breath, pain in the jaw or arm, sweating, nausea and vomiting ( symptoms of a heart attack).2
- Your neck pain is due to a fall, injury or blow.
- You experience loss of balance and have difficulty walking.
- Your arm or hand is numb, or you feel a tingling in it.
- Along with the neck pain, you also face difficulty in swallowing and breathing.
- Your pain worsens on lying down or sleeping and makes you wake up from sleep.
- Your control over passing urine and stools is lost.
- There is a lump on your neck or swelling of glands.
- You experience pain even after taking pain-relieving medication.
- Your pain persists even after one week of following the home remedies.2
Neck pain can cause great discomfort and restriction in our daily activities. It can occur due to constantly staring at screens, poor posture, stretching in the wrong way while exercising, etc., and you can feel a sharp, stinging ache in your neck due to it. Knowingly or unknowingly, you might focus on the pain and fear moving around, which indeed causes more suffering. It is wise to not get stuck up on the pain and look for remedies to deal with the pain instead. Try out a few home remedies such as ginger, turmeric, lavender, camphor, etc. and free yourself from neck pain.