7 Ways to Reduce Neck Pain

Neck pain, be it caused by bad sleep, bad posture, a sudden twist, or too much stress, is among the most common everyday complaints. Research shows that neck-strengthening exercises may be more important than stretching when it comes to preventing neck pain.

The same goes for shoulder strength. Strengthening your shoulders not only prevents shoulder stiffness and pain, it may also protect your elbow joints. That’s because weak shoulders increase the stress placed on your elbows and wrists. Here are some simple ways to build neck and shoulder strength throughout the day:

1. Whenever you feel exasperated at work, press your forehead into your palms.

Many of us tense up our neck muscles when under stress, which can lead to pain and stiffness over time. You can reduce tension and strengthen your neck at the same time with this simple exercise. The best part: No one in the office will know you’re exercising; they’ll think you’re just frustrated.

Sitting at your desk, lean forward and place your elbows on your desk. With your head centered over your shoulders, press your forehead into your palms, using your palms to resist the pressure of your head. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds, release, and repeat three to five times. Now sit up straight and place your palms on the back of your head with your elbows out to the sides. Press your head back into your palms as you use your palms to resist the pressure of your head. Hold for 3-5 seconds, release, then repeat three to five times.

2. Boost yourself up twice a day.

Here’s another great exercise for the office. Place your palms on the edge of your chair and press down into your hands, lifting your hips and buttocks an inch or two into the air. Hold for 5 seconds, lower, and repeat five times for a great shoulder muscle strengthener.

3. As you watch television at night, retract your shoulder blades.

Sit on the edge of your chair and lengthen your spine, as if you were trying to grow taller. Place your hands in your lap. Bring your shoulders as far back as you can, pinching your shoulder blades together. Hold for the length of an entire commercial. Relax and then repeat one more time during the course of the evening.

4. When you get home from work, fill a tube sock threefourths of the way with white rice, 2 cinnamon sticks, and 1 tablespoon cloves.

Seal the end tightly with a rubber band. Heat for 2 minutes in the microwave and drape around your neck for a surprisingly pleasing aromatherapeutic remedy for sore shoulders and neck. No need to empty the sock — you can use it over and over, until the spices lose their fragrance.

5. Whenever you spend more than 45 minutes in the driver’s seat or in front of the computer, practice the "turtle" exercise.

Often during driving and when staring at a computer screen, we tend to jut our heads forward, as if sticking our nose out is going to get us to our destination faster or help us finish that project quicker. Because the head weighs about 10 pounds, this puts quite a bit of stress on the back of the neck. Before you know it, you’ve got a headache. You can both strengthen the muscles in the back of your neck and train yourself to sit with proper posture with the following exercise. As you drive or type, pretend you are a turtle retracting your head into your shell. Keeping your chin level, bring your head back, flattening the curve in the back of your neck. Hold for a count of five, release, and repeat 10 times.

6. Every hour, drop your chin to your chest, then roll your neck to the left, back, to the right, and down again in a circular motion.

Repeat five times, then switch direction, starting with a roll to the right.

7. Make sure you’re sleeping on the right pillow.

The best pillow for you depends on your own preferences, but generally stomach sleepers should go for soft, side sleepers for medium, and back sleepers for firm.

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