Updated: Dec 27, 2020
Neck pain can be debilitating and prevent you from doing the things you love with the people you love.
It can also be scary when it stays around for more than a few days. Its hard to have pain and not know why or what to do.
In this article, I’m going to show you 5 simple exercises to relieve neck pain on your own. Although, it’s always best to see a physical therapist when you have neck pain, especially if it is not going away, these exercises will help you get started so that you can start getting relief right away.
Is My Neck Damaged?
A common misconception about pain is that Pain = Harm. The fact is that the opposite is usually the case.
Pain is more like a signal. We can compare it to a “Check Engine” light. The light tells us that something is off but it doesn’t actually tell us exactly what it is or where it is coming from.
This is even more the case when we have shoulder or arm pain. A lot of times it can be coming from the neck, even if we don’t feel pain in the neck!
Here is a great 5 minute video that summarizes what pain REALLY is about:
Therefore, I usually test to see if the neck is the source of the pain for many of my patients in the clinic.
Fact: Rarely, neck pain is a sign of a serious problem that can lead to actual damage and loss of function. Please see a medical professional if neck pain is accompanied by loss of strength and/or numbness down the arm and into the hand.
My neck started hurting even before I began physical therapy (PT) school.
I was an undergraduate studying Exercise Physiology (EP). Every day I would sit in the library looking down at my textbook, drinking coffee, and studying for hours at a time. I always have like to be prepared, especially since my service in the Marines. Therefore, I would read the chapters we would cover before class so that I would already have the material fresh in my head.
Then the neck pain started in the center of the back of my neck. I was very worried because it started to get worse the more I studied. Then it spread into my shoulders. I was thinking, “What am I supposed to do? I can’t stop studying!”
Then I did something that was very helpful. I bought a book stand. I put my textbooks in the bookstands and was able to study with very little pain. Although it didn’t clear up my neck pain, it allowed me to study without making things worse. I was relieved.
However, it wasn’t until I learned the exercises that I am going to tell you about that my pain went away.
Neck pain is the fourth leading cause of disability in the U.S.
More than 30% of people in this country experience neck pain each year!
Many cases of neck pain resolve without treatment but about 50% of people continue to experience some degree of pain or recurrence of symptoms.