Nagging neck and upper back pain are all too familiar. Especially if you are lucky enough to be stuck at home working at your desk, sofa, or bed, this could be the reason why your neck feels like it’s been hit by a truck! Chances are your poor computer posture created this dilemma.
How do I treat the pain, you ask?
Well, here are some tried and true remedies from Eric Cooper Fitness that may help alleviate the muscle tension trapped at the base of your neck and upper back.
1. Do neck stretches.
These are some excellent neck stretches that target the front and back neck muscles.
1a. Myofascial release of upper back and neck muscles.
Myofascial release can be an intense experience. The pressure is applied with a physical therapist’s hands, elbows, or a massage tool like a foam roller or a ball. You might be sore after, but your muscles will feel a lot looser. Myofascial release can help your range of motion, reduce soreness, relax your body, improve circulation, release knots, tension, and even stress. This video from physical therapists, Bob Schrupp and Brad Heineckshows, shows you how to do the myofascial release for yourself.
1b. Trigger point self-massage.
First, find the tight spots (this will not be difficult). Then, use your fingers (or tools like a foam roller or a tennis ball) to press firmly into the trigger points. Repeat for three to five minutes, ideally as often as five or six times per day. This should become a routine activity for best results. This video from Cassidy Phillips at TriggerPoint Fitness shows you how to massage trigger points.
1c. Static neck stretches.
The neck is composed of superficial and deep tissue muscles located on all four sides, including the prime movers, scalene, sternocleidomastoid, and levator scapula. When you force these muscles into substandard anatomical positions for long periods throughout the day, they become over-stressed. A series of problems can develop like, muscle strain, muscle cramps, and spasms. These dysfunctions forces the neck to move irregularly, which may lead to tension headaches and trigger muscle pain in the back, chest, and arms. Try these stretches to loosen tight neck muscles and alleviate nagging neck pain. (See chart below.)
2. Wrap a warm heating pad or bag around your neck for 20 minutes.
The heat helps soothe sore muscles that cause back pain or neck pain. It works best for injuries that are at least a few days old. Heat opens blood vessels, which can assist the healing process and alleviate some of your pain.
3. Pull out your Shiatsu massager.
Lay comfortably on you back with the massager wrapped around your neck. Start on low tension and progress to high, if needed. Let it work on you for about 30 minutes straight. The pressure may be slightly unbearable, but keep going as long as you can. At this point, the muscle tension should be partly if not fully relieved.
4. Use a cervical pillow to support your neck while sleeping.
This will help reduce the neck tension that builds up while sleeping. These were rated the best pillows for neck pain.
5. Re-adjust your posture.
When working, sit in an upright and mechanically aligned structure. Our shoulders want to move, so make sure to check in with your body while you are working. Realigning your posture may save you from the problems created by sitting poorly while working at a desk or computer.