At any given time, 10 percent of Americans will be suffering with a pain in the neck. Most of the time it’s because we’ve caused a strain from either overuse, poor posture, a wacky sleep position, improper posture, emotional stress, or exercise gone awry. If you’re suffering from pain after an accident and have a case of whiplash, or are experiencing pain radiating from your neck down to your arms or legs, see your doctor. Otherwise, for relief try one of these at-home remedies.
ICE It’s certainly not as comforting as heat, but it does the trick when it comes to reducing muscle and tendon inflammation – the most common cause of neck pain.Applying ice to the injured area forces the body to rest for a while, reduces the swelling you can't see and has the added benefit of dulling the pain. Two caveats: 1) Never apply ice directly to your skin. Too much cold can kill skin cells and actually cause frostbite. 2) Don't ice for more than 20 minutes at a time. Give your neck a chance to warm up between applications.
GO FOR A HOT SHOWER Heat will relax the muscles, forcing your neck contraction to lessen, and speed the healing process. For minor muscle strains, this may be all it takes.
Take ANTI-INFLAMMATORY MEDICINE Acetaminophen (Tylenol), while generally being the safest medication to take for pain, is not an anti-inflammatory. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) is perhaps the most common over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, and can be taken by most people. Aspirin also has anti-inflammatory properties. If neither of these are an option, consult a doctor or pharmacist for advice.
AVOID FURTHER STRAIN When lying down, place a small pillow under the nape of your neck to align the head and neck.
TRY THREE GENTLE EXERCISES
Chin Glides Keeping your chin parallel to the ground. Slide your head backwards and hold for three seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat 10 times.
Shrugs Stand with your arms by your side. Lift your shoulders up to your ears and hold for 1 second. Then pull your shoulders back, pinching your shoulder blades together. Hold for 1 second. Relax your shoulders and repeat 20 times.
Head Rotations Sitting or standing, turn your head to the right as far as possible without pain and hold for 1 second. Turn your head to the left as far as possible. Hold for 1 second. Repeat 20 times both right and left.
Robin Westen is ThirdAge's medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. Her latest book, co-authored with Dr. Alyssa Dweck, is "V Is For Vagina."