Patient with neck pain stretching at work.

Neck pain is really common and most people will experience at least one episode at some point in their life.

It’s often something really simple that triggers the pain like carrying something heavy, sleeping awkwardly or spending your day driving or hunched over a computer.

Your neck muscles are also frequently affected by the way you are feeling. Periods of stress and anxiety cause muscle tension, which in turn can lead to pain.

Most of the time, neck pain is not a sign of any serious injury and it generally gets better in a matter of weeks.

First aid for neck pain

Keep your neck on the move – gentle movement helps your body heal and prevents other joints and muscles around the painful part of your neck from becoming weak, stiff and painful too. Stay within a comfort zone and move your neck in all directions, little and often. If you work at a desk, get up and move around frequently during the day. Don’t wait until your neck feels uncomfortable before stretching, it’s far less effective this way.

Heat pack– placing a wheat bag or hot water bottle around your neck for 10- 15 minutes wil relax tight, sore muscles. This usually gives some temporary relief from pain, so afterwards it’s the ideal time to work on your neck movements.

Painkillers and anti-inflammatories – taking regular medication will allow you to move your neck more normally. This will help to speed up your recovery and prevent other areas of your body from compensating. Have a chat with your GP or pharmacist if you have any questions about which medication would work best for you.

Shaped pillow – If your sleep is affected by your neck pain, try rolling up a hand towel lengthways and place it in a pair of tights to hold the shape. Slide the roll into your pillow case along the bottom edge so that when you place your head on the pillow the rolled towel supports your neck.

Breathing exercises – if stress or anxiety are triggers for your neck pain then breathing exercises are a great way to relieve neck symptoms:

  • Lie down somewhere comfortable and quiet.
  • Place one hand on your abdomen and one hand on your breastbone.
  • Inhale and imagine your abdomen filling with air like a balloon. Your lower hand should rise while your top hand remains still.
  • Make a smooth transition to the next breath without pausing.
  • Allow the breath to exit your body without effort – imagine your lower hand sinking through your body towards the floor. This will help you exhale fully.
  • Count to keep to each breathe long and even – 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out.

Tips: If you can breathe in through your nose as this adds greater resistance and slows the breath down. Practice twice a day for 5 mins.

Better posture – draw your shoulders back gently and imagine an invisible cord pulling you up from the crown of your skull, so the back of your neck lengthens and your chin drops in slightly towards your throat. An ergonomic assessment might be helpful to support better posture at work.

Gentle massage – gently working into the muscles around your neck and upper shoulders can also help to warm up and relax your muscles before trying to get your neck moving.

We offer a range of treatments for neck pain and send out all our exercise programmes with video links so you can be confident you’re doing them correctly.

If you think we might be able to help, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The Physiofit Team!