Neck Exercises to help Neck Pain

Neck Exercises are easy to do and clinically shown to help neck pain symptoms

A January, 2014 study in the journal Spine confirms previous findings using MRI imaging, that individuals suffering chronic neck pain can benefit from muscle conditioning or neck exercises. The study revealed atrophy or deconditioning of several neck muscles in those individuals suffering from general as well as injury related neck pain.

The ongoing scientific evidence indicating the benefits of neck exercises to help neck pain is the reason why they are a commonly used method of treatment in the management of patients suffering neck pain symptoms. Although many individuals will benefit from a few specific exercises, since most general neck problems are due to postural issues, a typical therapeutic approach may consist of stretching as well as strengthening and general exercises.

neck exercises

Long standing chronic or neck pain that recurs can have a significant impact on performing work and daily activities. Neck problems most often consist of tight muscles and stiff joints, but may include related headaches, pain between shoulder blades, shoulder and upper back pain.

Neck exercises to help these symptoms consist of one or all of the following types of active motion therapies:

Neck Stretches

Stretching exercises promote flexibility and can increase a healthy range of motion in relation to the head and shoulders. They can help lengthen muscles and lubricate neck joints, which can be effective in the relief of a painful stiff neck. Generally, neck stretches can be done on a daily basis and are most effective when performed several times throughout the day.

Neck Strengthening Exercises

Strengthening weak neck muscles can help restore normal posture, helping to ease pain flare-ups and increase endurance to help prevent the pain from returning. When doing neck strengthening exercises, most should be performed with a day’s rest between, allowing for muscle recovery.

neck exercizer

General Aerobic Exercises

Often, one does not think of this type of exercising for neck pain, however, aerobic conditioning increases the flow of blood to neck, upper back and shoulder muscles, which can help with motion range as well as alleviate muscle stiffness. Additionally, increasing oxygen and blood flow during aerobic exercising promotes the release of the body’s own pain relief chemicals called endorphins. This aerobic conditioning also helps reduce stress, which helps with neck and shoulder pain relief.

aerobic exercises

Aerobic exercises may be done daily for at least 30 minutes. This can be as simple as walking, or by using exercise equipment like treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and other well designed exercise aids.

Controlling Pain for Neck Exercises

Often, it is important to get neck pain symptoms managed prior to beginning an exercise program. Gradually performed stretches can help reduce pain and promote healing, along with methods using heat therapy, ice applications, massage tools, soothing pillows for improved rest, over the counter pain relief medications, postural modification, supports when indicated and judicious use of cervical spine traction. These approaches can help alleviate neck pain over time, with the goal of increasing one’s ability to use exercises for relief and prevention. Lack of response to these forms of home treatment may indicate the necessity for professional help.

Help With Neck Exercises

Most exercises are fairly simple. Many will instinctively recognize exercises that are beneficial for them. A home program does not have to be complex. A few stretches and specific strengthening as well as aerobic exercises is enough, however, consulting your health care professional prior to any exercise program is recommended. Additionally, health professionals like Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, or Physiatrists that are trained in these exercises can help you do them correctly and choose the best ones for your condition. A general rule is that stretching and exercising should not increase the pain. Mild muscle soreness can be expected, but no increase in symptoms.

neck curve exercises

Neck pain is a common complaint and ranks only second to back pain for problems with the muscular-skeletal system. In a given year, 30 to 50 percent of the work force population will experience neck pain. Even though most neck problems are short lasting, about 30% of patients suffering neck pain will have long term problems lasting over 6 months, developing chronic symptoms that become difficult to diagnose and treat. This contributes to significant costs in health care and lost work productivity. Therefore, having simple, effective ways to deal with neck pain, like those promoted at Neck Solutions can help, and we spend alot of time on neck exercises.

Motivation For Neck Exercises

Neck exercises can not only benefit neck pain, but are good for healthy necks also. Incorporating regular stretching, strengthening and cardiovascular exercises can help with both relief and prevention of neck pain conditions, also benefitting the body as a whole, especially with high rates of sitting at computers, desks and driving. Exercising provides a key element in reducing future costs and incidents of neck pain.

Your neck has a very important job to perform everyday. It has to hold up your head, which weighs as much as a large bowling ball. Imagine holding up a bowling ball everyday, all day! This is what your neck does. Most people have less than good posture, especially at the end of a long day, so the head slowly drifts forward from the neck. Hold a bowling ball in close to your body, then try holding out from your body – it gets heavier and harder to hold up. As the head drifts forward, your neck muscles have to work harder, causing stress on the muscles, joints, ligaments and discs. These are pain producing structures of the neck, which have to wok together to provide both firm stability and smooth motion.

Having a program to include a good combination of neck exercises and stretches helps keep your head over your shoulders using minimal strain of gravity on sensitive structures, helps strengthen muscles to prevent little injuries which, over time, can lead to degenerative neck conditions as well as bulging or herniated discs, which may require the use of prescription medications with their negative side effects or even surgery.

It can be just a couple of neck stretches to start, taking only 5 minutes. Gradually working up to more. Some neck exercises are so simple to do that nobody will even notice you are doing them. Even this, studies show, can help with a pain in the neck.


Neck Pain Causes And Treatment

Neck Pain – Causes & Treatment

Acute & Chronic Neck Pain

Stress from poor postural habits, everyday wear and tear, disease or injury can stress the cervical spine causing neck pain. The neck is often prone to injury and overuse because it has a wide range of motion for turning and supporting the head. Acute neck pain happens suddenly and most often will resolve in in days or weeks, most often related to pain from discs, joints, ligaments or muscles. Self care methods including initial rest, ice, heat or exercise can help.

If neck pain continues over 3 months, it is considered chronic and if reasonable treatment methods have not provided relief, it will most likely need special evaluation. Chronic neck pain may be present all of the time or become worse with certain motions or activities. Determining the cause can be challenging, however, factors that often are involved are degenerative conditions or arthritis, scar tissue, nerve involvement as well as the emotional factors associated with chronic pain.

Structures Of The Neck

neck pain causes and treatment

You can see the cervical spine, which is the region of the neck. The sensitive nerves and spinal cord are protected by the hard bones of the cervical spine. There are seven of these bones in the neck and are numbered from top to bottom, An example of this is C5, which C stands for cervical and 5 indicates the fifth bone. The bones are divided by discs that help absorb shock and provide smooth motion between the bones, allowing for proper distance. Nerves that come off of the spinal cord and go to parts of the body pass through openings in the bones through the neck area and into the arms. Ligaments, muscles and tendons connect the cervical spine, providing stability and motion control.

Neck Pain Symptoms

Symptoms of neck pain are often related to the structures involved. From muscles to nerves, the symptoms associated with neck involvement may include one or more of the following: tightness, stiffness, shooting, stabbing, burning, tingling or pressure. These symptoms may provide your doctor clues to the structures involved. Since the neck is a bridge between the head and shoulders, tense or sore muscles may be felt in the shoulders, neck, head, including the face. Muscles involved can present with symptoms of tightness when turning the head along with limited ability or restriction in this range of motion, often seen after a whiplash neck injury. Symptoms of nerves involved may cause tingling, weakness, numbness and pain into the shoulder, arm or hand.

Radiating Neck Pain

Usually, symptoms of pain or tingling sensations into the arms or hands are often associated with herniated cervical discs, however, muscles, joints and ligaments can also refer or send these symptoms away from the neck and into the upper limbs. Often charts showing locations of nerves are used to tell what nerve is involved, but this is not always so clear, and the most that can be said is that the location may give a clue to what segment of the cervical spine is involved, until further tests like MRI Scans can be done.

Concerning Neck Pain

There are circumstances that neck problems need immediate medical care. If there is a fever associated with neck stiffness, meningitis should be a concern – nausea or severe headache with neck pain is also concerning. When nerve pressure is severe, symptoms of tingling, pain or numbness may extend to the legs, there can be loss of bowel or bladder control, muscle weakness and loss of coordination. If the pain is very severe and you cannot touch the chin to the chest, medical attention is needed.

Neck Pain Causes

There are many causes for neck pain. Some of the more common causes are one or a combination of the following: natural wearing of the structures, consistent bad posture like slouching or stomach sleeping without a special pillow designed for stomach sleepers, strain from not lifting correctly, which can cause injuries normally associated with back pain. Injuries are often associated with whiplash trauma, falls or sports, resulting in muscle and/or ligament tears, as well as the possibility of fractures. Discs may herniate or bulge into nerves, bone spurs from arthritis can compress or pinch nerves or cause stenosis, which is a narrowing of an opening where nerves go through, sometimes compressing the spinal cord casing cervical myelopathy, or compressing a nerve resulting in cervical radiculopathy.

Arthritis is common as we age, but there are different types; modic changes can indicate a rapid form of degeneration, some related to infection. Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune disorder causing joint destruction. Arthritis typically causes degeneration of joint protecting cartilage and causes motion restriction, inflammation causing swelling and pain.

How Is Neck Pain Diagnosed?

Examination after a detailed history can include motion ranges and muscle testing including orthopedic tests which stress certain structures and neurological testing like reflexes and sensations. X-rays or other detailed imaging like MRI of the cervical spine may be done.

How Is Neck Pain Treated?

Conservative methods like self care and therapies provided by Physical Therapists and Chiropractors are done to heal the problem, restoring function and helping to prevent future problems. If these measures fail, injections or surgical procedures may be indicated.

Self care methods include resting sore areas to avoid further stress, ice for the first few days if tolerable, then heat applications and over the counter pain relievers like naproxen, ibuprofen or aspirin. These methods often cause relief within a week by reducing inflammation, relaxing muscles and easing pain. Slowly start stretching and/or mild neck exercises, because too much rest is not good.

If the pain is not resolving in a couple days or gets worse, see a doctor. Prescription medications like muscle relaxants to alleviate spasms, analgesics to control pain or oral steroids like a Medrol dose pack can help with inflammation and swelling. Steroids may be injected into specific areas like epidural or facet injections for irritated joints, that can provide rapid relief within a 24 hour period.

Chiropractors and Physical Therapists can use manipulations, mobilization, exercises, stretches, proper lifting and ergonomics, massage, ultrasound, traction, heat and other forms of physiological therapeutics as well as recommend products for neck pain relief at home.

Usually surgery is not necessary, however, with certain emergencies, persistent muscle weakness, a disc herniation that will not resolve and cord compression, surgery may be needed and may offer the best method to resolve non responsive conditions with persisting levels of pain and dysfunction.

Recovery

Most acute neck symptoms will respond to treatment quickly and the symptoms will be alleviated within 2 weeks. Things like having a positive outlook and expecting a rapid recovery, getting back into work and life are important.

Prevention

Learning simple ways to lift correctly, ergonomics including proper posture when working, sleeping and sitting, exercise and stretching, both for the neck and general fitness, nutrition, stress reduction and relaxation all play a role in preventing future neck problems.


Neck Pain Basics

The Basics of Neck Pain

neck pain basicsDo you have neck stiffness when you wake up in the morning? Maybe the neck muscles go into spasm for no apparent reason. Perhaps the neck and upper back pain are a continuous nagging ache.

If you experience neck pain, you are not alone. Over 15 percent of adults in the U.S. experience had suffered from neck pain within a 3 month period, as indicated by the CDC and Prevention. It is estimated by doctors that 7 of 10 individuals will experience neck pain during their lifetime. 1 of 20 of these individuals will have it effect their daily and work activities due to the longstanding nature and bothersomeness of chronic neck pain. Neck pain will often not be a one time experience, 50 to 85 percent of individuals will another experience within 5 years.

Neck pain is common because it has to support the head, weighing about 10 to 12 pounds, yet must permit the head to be able to move up and down, tilt and turn. So, the neck must combine this flexibility of motion with strength for support. This combination is achieved with a system nerves, tendons, bones, and muscles that work in a complex manner. The nature of this system means the neck is prone to injuries and strains, especially the effects of poor posture over long periods. A problem with one part has effects by compensation on other parts.

If there is any good news involving neck pain, even though it is a painful and sometimes ability limiting condition, it is usually not a serious condition resulting in disability or requiring immediate medical attention. While chronic or long standing neck pain is often difficult to resolve, most commonly, neck pain symptoms resolve quickly with minor attention. Most types are able to be relieved and/or managed with simple home treatments, products designed to alleviate neck pain and over the counter pain relievers.

Over the years, there has been a trend towards individuals with neck pain taking an active part in recovery as well as prevention. Taking responsibility to be more active has been noted to improve results. While an initial period of rest and supports like collars can be beneficial, returning to normal activities as soon as possible with the help of effective home use products, medications and therapies like chiropractic and physical therapy is usually preferred, and can help prevent an acute or recent episode from becoming chronic or long standing. Exercises that include stretching, strengthening as well as general exercise continues to show benefits in scientific studies in both treatment and prevention. Sometimes, to provide relief when other traditional therapies fail, surgery is required.

At NeckSolutions, we learn about ways to manage and prevent neck pain, ways to diagnose, options for treatments as well as simple measures you can employ and effective products that can help. We also do the same for back pain. There are new methods being discovered and tested all the time and we try to keep up with them, presenting new options, products and methods and information.


Back and Neck Pain Medications

Back and Neck Pain Medications Used From Mild To Severe Pain Relief

medications for neck and back painJudicious use of mild forms of medications for neck & back pain can help with reducing pain and inflammation when used as prescribed or recommended. Although these medications can’t stop the progression of degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis, they can help with control of the pain.

Back and Neck Pain Medications – Aspirin

Compounds containing aspirin are available as over the counter pain relievers that usually help alleviate mild levels of pain associated with neck & back pain. Side effects associated with aspirin can be stomach problems like ulcers, sometimes with bleeding. Do not take aspirin products during pregnancy. If you are pregnant, you should consult with your obstetrician about ANY medictions you take.

Back and Neck Pain Medications – Non Steroid Anti Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Drugs like naproxen and ibuprofen are pain relievers that can be obtained over the counter. Previously only obtained by prescription, they are now readily available ans can be effective for relief of pain due to inflammation of osteoarthritis and minor strains of muscles associated with neck & back pain, reducing joint inflammation. If you have any kidney problems, you should not take these NSAIDs, and overuse can lead to kidney problems.

Back and Neck Pain Medications – Non Narcotics

Analgesics is the term used for pain relievers that treat pain at the injury point and are used for pain ranging from mild to moderate. Popular over the counter analgesics are Tylenol and aspirin. For any analgesic that provides more pain relief than over the counter preparations, a prescription from a doctor is required, Typical NSAIDs requiring a prescription are: sulindac, ketoprofen, fenoprofen, and carprofen. Prescription analgesics usually pose the risk of increased side effects. With these, it is advisable to refrain from lying down 15-30 minutes after consumption. They can also increase susceptibility to sunlight, so wear appropriate protective clothing, use sun blockers and try to stay away from direct sunlight. Avoid use with chronic ulcer and liver problems.

Back and Neck Pain Medications – Narcotics

With more severe levels of pain, your doctor may prescribe the use of narcotic medications for pain like morphine or codeine. Narcotics medications provide relief of pain through actions on the relieve pain by acting on the central nervous system as an anesthetic. Narcotics pain medications may cause drowsiness, sedation, vomiting and nausea, so you should be aware of these potential side effects. To reduce the risk of these side effects, try to avoid the use of antidepressants or sleeping medications and alchohol.

Morphine & codeine are opioids, derived from the poppy plant. Additional opiods commonly used for severe pain are: Dilaudid (hydromorphone), Demerol (meperidine), Duragesic (fentanyl), Percodan (oxycodone with aspirin), Percocet (oxycodone with acetaminophen), methadone, and Vicodin (hydrocodone).

To help avoid constipation that often accompanies taking narcotics, eat sufficient amounts of natural fiber – not bulking agent pills which can make things worse, keep hydrated, and use a stool softener and laxative when necessary should you become constipated. In fact, it may be a good idea to start using these before you become constipated. Stool softeners such as (Colace) docusate and laxatives like Dulcolax (bisacodyl, senna) are usually suggested. Should these not work, Miralax, Milk of Magnesia, or or magnesium citrate may help.

Remember, narcotics can become quite addicting.

Back and Neck Pain Medications – Muscle Relaxants

If you are experiencing muscle spasms, prescription muscle relaxants may be prescribed. While they can help ease pain associated with muscular spasm, they are not particularly effective for many individuals, and can cause depression and drowsiness, therefore, they are not an effective long term stategy. Use marginally or perhaps about a week.

Back and Neck Pain Medications – Antidepressants

Neck and back pain is often associated with symptoms of depression and antidepressant drugs may assist with in alleviating some of the emotional stress that can cause or aggravate nack and back pain. There is an association in nerve pathways between depression and pain and the chemicals produced. Depression can lead to pain and pain can lead to depression. This can turn into a vicious cycle. There are antidepressants that appear to alleviate some back and neck pain, possibly affecting the nerve – chemical pathways and they may offer some relief from insomnia. Some common symptoms of antidepressant medications are fatigue, dry mouth, constipation, decreased appetite and drowsiness.

Many individuals suffering mild to moderate levels of pain will use natural pain relievers to avoid some of the common side effects. Just because they are natural, it does not mean they will not interact with over the counter or prescription medications. So, when taking medications for back and neck pain, follow the instructions of your doctor and read the information that comes with the medications. If you have questions, always consult your doctor or pharmacist.