Neck strain is a common enough affliction; especially for those people who work at desk jobs, hunched over a computer. Held in one position for too long, your neck will suffer the consequences. No matter the cause, strains can be painful; and in most cases, neck stretching exercises are sufficient to relieve the discomfort.
There are several causes for neck strain. If your pillow is too high or too low, this can cause a strain since your neck stays in an awkward position for a long period of time. Trauma to the neck, such as whiplash from a car accident or falling onto your head can also strain muscles of the neck. Talking on the phone while holding your phone between your shoulder and ear can also cause pain in the neck. You can also strain neck muscles by looking up too much or by reading in bed with your head tilted.
Stretching exercises can help reduce stiffness association with neck strain. In between exercises, use an ice pack and heat intermediately to reduce pain and possible swelling. Also take an over-the-counter medication for pain, such as an anti-inflammatory or acetaminophen. Massaging the area can reduce tension and offer some relief. You can rub the area yourself, use a vibrating hand-held massager or seek the assistance of a massage therapist.
Neck and shoulder rolls can offer relief for neck pain. For neck rolls, look down with your chin close to your chest. Slowly roll your neck so your ear is moving closer to your shoulder. Continue the roll so your head is all the way back and you’re looking at the ceiling and finish the roll by bringing your head back to starting position. Perform 10 rolls in both directions. For shoulder rolls, start in a rested position with your arms to your sides. Roll your shoulders forward and bring them up toward your ears. Continue to roll your shoulders towards your back and then return to starting position. Perform 10 rolls in both directions.
Side flex and forward flex will require some added tension with your hands. For the forward flex, interlace your fingers behind your head. Look down so your chin is close to your chest and pull forward with your hands until you feel mild tension. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and repeat three times. For a side flex, take your right arm and place it over the top of your head. Place your right hand on your left ear and pull your right ear towards your right shoulder until you feel mild tension. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and repeat three times on both sides.
Contact your doctor if the strain is accompanied by arm pain, numbness or tingling. Also contact your doctor if the pain is severe and interferes with your daily activities. If trauma was involved, always seek assistance from a doctor before attempting at-home remedies since a neck brace may be required and additional movements may cause more problems.