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Neck Pain Relief: 10 Ways to Effectively Relieve Neck Pain

Woman wearing a sports attire holding her painful neck

Neck pain is a common and often debilitating issue for many people. It can be caused by various factors, such as muscle strain, poor posture, and remaining in one position for a long time. Fortunately, there are various strategies to achieve neck pain relief. One of the common treatment methods is electrical stimulation. Using neck supports and other self-care measures can also greatly improve the condition. In addition, medications and spinal injections can alleviate the symptoms in severe cases.

The neck plays an important role in supporting the head and allowing for movement. It is also vital in processing sensory information. It is also the most flexible part of the spine. When it becomes painful, simple tasks like turning or even sleeping can become difficult. Injuries or damage to the tissue can cause pain and restrict motion. This comprehensive guide will explore the ten effective ways to find relief from neck pain.

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How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with TENS Therapy

Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, or TENS therapy, is a non-invasive treatment that uses low-voltage electrical currents to relieve pain. It works by sending small electrical impulses through electrodes placed on the skin. This helps disrupt or block pain signals from reaching the brain. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the natural painkillers.

People with neck pain can use a portable TENS machine on the affected area. The device has adjustable settings to control the electrical stimulation based on individual comfort levels. To achieve neck pain relief, place one set of electrodes on either side of the spine, underneath the skull. Individuals may also place the TENS pads above or beside the shoulder blades.

Once the electrodes are in place, turn on the TENS machine and set the frequency, pulse duration, and intensity to the desired level. It is recommended to start at the lowest intensity and gradually increase to a comfortable sensation. Moreover, treatment duration often lasts for 30-60 minutes. The device can be used multiple times daily; however, ensure to take regular breaks in between sessions.

Advantages of TENS Therapy

  • Drug-free: TENS therapy is a completely natural method of pain relief. The absence of medication minimises the risk of systemic effects or dependency.
  • Non-invasive: TENS therapy does not require any surgical procedures or injections, making it a safer option for those looking to avoid invasive treatments.
  • Customisable: Users can adjust the settings, allowing them to tailor the treatment to their specific needs and comfort levels.
  • Portable: TENS machines are compact and portable, making it easy for individuals to use them at home or on the go.
  • Cost-effective: Buying a TENS device is a one-time investment. It can help save money in the long run.

A woman walking outside holding her neck while walking

How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with a Soft Neck Collar

A soft neck collar is a device that fits around the neck and restricts movement, usually forward and backward, but not side-to-side. This can help provide neck pain relief from conditions like a whiplash injury, neck sprain, and chronic neck pain. Furthermore, they can support and stabilise the neck, alleviating discomfort and strain on the neck muscles and ligaments.

Soft collars can also help with degenerative disc diseases like cervical spondylosis, soft tissue injuries, and nerve compression. People recovering from neck surgery or a general stiff neck can benefit from this. To relieve neck pain, choosing the right size and fit is important. Make sure the collar is not too tight or too loose, as this may cause additional discomfort and not provide the necessary support.

After finding a fit soft collar, wear it consistently throughout the day, especially during activities that may aggravate neck pain. Additionally, the soft material of the collar should gently cradle the neck and provide gentle compression to reduce inflammation. It is also vital to maintain good posture and strengthening exercises to prevent future pain.

How to Use a Soft Neck Collar

Using a soft neck collar involves choosing the right size to fit the neck. Make sure it is snug but not too tight to prevent restricting blood flow. Wear the collar underneath the chin first. Putting the back of the collar on first will not immobilise the spine properly.

Fasten the collar until it is firm but comfortable. Once it is properly fit, wear the device as instructed by a healthcare provider. However, avoid use for longer periods. It is also advisable to wash the collar daily with warm water and gentle soap to prevent bacteria growth.

A woman sat in bed frowning due to neck pain

How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with Home Exercises

Home exercises are a simple yet effective way to achieve neck pain relief. They can help strengthen the neck muscles and improve flexibility.  Strengthening the muscles also minimises the risk of injuries. They are easy to do and can be done even without professional guidance. Nevertheless, it is vital to follow the proper form and technique to prevent further strain or injury.

Individuals may perform neck pain exercises upon approval of a health professional to ease stiffness. However, they should avoid stretches if they have severe neck pain or weakness in the hands or arms. Moreover, experts recommend stretching and strengthening exercises a few times per week, even if a person does not have any neck issues.

People may perform strengthening exercises every other day to allow the muscles time to repair themselves. Be careful not to make existing neck pain worse. Furthermore, practising new exercises may cause short-term muscle soreness, but they should ease quickly. Various exercises can help reduce pain and prevent future pain episodes.

Best Exercises to Do

One of the best exercises is the neck stretch. It involves tilting the head gently from side to side, forward and backward, and in circles. Hold each stretch for 15-30 seconds and repeat two to three times. This exercise helps improve flexibility and reduce neck stiffness.

Another exercise is the shoulder blade squeeze. While sitting or standing, squeeze the shoulder blades together for 5-10 seconds. This can help improve posture and relieve neck strain. Lastly, chin tucks are exercises to strengthen the muscles in the front of the neck. Gently tuck the chin towards the chest, holding for a few seconds before releasing.

A woman touching the back of her neck with her left hand

How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is another effective way to achieve long-term neck pain relief. It is a guided treatment that helps with pain, movement, and rehabilitation. A physical therapist diagnoses individual conditions and creates a personalised treatment plan to address the root cause of the pain. They will also assess the range of motion, strength, and flexibility.

A physiotherapist may use a combination of manual techniques and modalities to alleviate neck pain. Moreover, there are two kinds of physical therapy: passive and active. Passive therapy involves treatments that do not require effort from the patient. On the other hand, active therapy involves the patient moving their body through exercises and stretches.

People with persistent neck pain may consult a therapist to determine the right technique. For example, individuals with limited mobility may find passive therapy more beneficial, while those looking to improve strength and flexibility may benefit from active therapy. This focuses on the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Physical therapists also educate patients on proper posture and body mechanics to prevent neck pain from worsening.

Benefits of TENS-Aided Physical Therapy

  • Combining physical therapy with TENS treatment maximises the effectiveness of pain management.
  • Electrical stimulation can help condition the nerves and muscles before beginning a physical therapy session.
  • TENS can enhance blood circulation, which aids in the promotion of healing or recovery from injuries during physical therapy.
  • The use of TENS machines supports long-term pain management for chronic pain.
  • Aid in the management and reduction of post-traumatic and post-surgical pain.
  • Re-education of muscles using targeted stimulation.
  • Prevention and cessation of muscular atrophy due to disuse.
  • Preserve and improve the range of motion.
  • Relaxation of muscle spasms and stiff neck muscles.

A woman leaning to the right while holding her pained neck

How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with Heat and Cold

Heat and cold therapies are treatments that individuals can do at home for neck pain relief. The heat helps relax the muscles in the neck and reduces pain. It dilates blood vessels, allowing an increase in blood flow or circulation to the affected area. This promotes faster healing as the bloodstream delivers more oxygen and nutrients.

On the other hand, cold therapy helps reduce inflammation and numb the area to alleviate pain. It reduces nerve activity and relieves tenderness. In addition, using an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel can provide relief. This is suitable for treating acute injuries, especially within the first 48 hours of the trauma.

Heat and cold packs are available for purchase at drugstores. However, individuals may use alternatives, such as hot showers or frozen towels, to achieve the same effect. Moreover, avoid direct contact with the skin to prevent burns when using cold or heat packs. People can use cold and heat therapy several times a day as needed.

Applying Alternate Heat and Cold

Applying alternate heat and cold can be an effective way to manage neck pain. This technique is known as contrast therapy. It can be most effective in cases such as exercise-induced injuries or arthritis. The alternating temperatures help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Individuals can repeat this process several times a day for optimal relief.

For injuries, apply cold first for not more than 15-20 minutes at a time. After two to three days, use heat to increase blood flow and stimulate the natural healing process. It is important not to use them for prolonged periods to avoid damaging the skin.

A woman experiencing intense neck pain

How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice for pain relief. It is a conservative treatment with a very low risk of complications. Thus, it is a viable option for neck pain relief. It involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to alleviate discomfort and promote healing. These points are believed to correspond to different organs and systems in the body.

Targeting specific points can help release tension in the neck muscles and improve blood flow. This helps stimulate endorphin production and the natural pain-relieving mechanisms of the body. Furthermore, patients with neck pain may need several acupuncture sessions to experience significant improvements. The number of sessions may vary depending on the severity of the condition.

During the treatment, an acupuncturist will insert the needles into acupoints, such as the back of the neck on the base of the skull. Another point is at the back of the hand, in between the two bones of the pointer and middle finger. Acupuncture can be a standalone therapy or in conjunction with other treatments.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

Many individuals find acupuncture to be a safe and effective alternative therapy for managing neck pain. Nevertheless, there are certain guidelines to follow to avoid potential risks. Firstly, only a trained and licensed professional can perform the treatment. Secondly, the needles should be sterile, disposable, and very thin, reducing the risk of infection.

Additionally, acupuncture has minimal side effects compared to other pain management options. Common side effects may include minor bruising or soreness at the site of needle insertion. However, it may not be advisable for high-risk patients. This includes people with uncontrolled movements, spinal instability, or severe clotting disorder.

An woman frowning because of her neck pain

How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care can help attain neck pain relief by addressing the root cause of the pain. Chiropractors are trained professionals who focus on the diagnosis and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, including neck pain. Through manual adjustments, they can realign the spine, increase joint function, and improve overall spinal health.

In addition, chiropractors may use other techniques, such as massage therapy and stretching, to help reduce neck pain and prevent it from recurring. A customised treatment plan can help ensure that it targets the underlying issues causing the pain rather than just masking the symptoms. By following this plan, patients can expect to see long-lasting relief.

During the session, a chiropractor will perform adjustments by applying controlled force to specific areas of the spine. This helps improve joint mobility, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pressure on nerves. By restoring proper alignment, chiropractic care can help promote healing and reduce pain in the neck and back. It is generally safe under the guidance of a licensed professional. However, it may not be suitable for people with severe disc conditions, osteoporosis, or arthritis.

Chiropractic Treatments

  • Spinal mobilisation: Gentle movements of the spine to restore proper alignment and function. It can help alleviate neck pain by realigning the vertebrae in the neck.
  • Cervical mobilisation: A patient lies on their back while the chiropractor manually moves the neck vertebrae, including side-to-side motion and rotation.
  • Activator method: A chiropractor uses a small handheld device called the “Activator” to deliver a gentle impulse to the spine. This technique is suitable for patients who prefer a more gentle approach to manual adjustments.
  • Spinal decompression: This technique involves gentle stretches to the spine to alleviate pressure on the discs and nerves in the neck.

A woman touching the back of her neck with her fingertips

How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with Massages

Massage therapy is one of the earliest forms of pain management. Seeking neck pain relief with massages can be a soothing and effective way to alleviate tension and discomfort in the neck area. A massage therapist first identifies specific trigger points and applies appropriate pressure. Subsequently, they focus on relaxing tight neck muscles and neck tension that contributes to pain.

Hands-on therapies use various strategies to release tension and promote circulation. Common techniques include Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and trigger point therapy. Swedish or classic massage is a gentle form of massage involving long strokes, kneading, and circular movements. Meanwhile, deep tissue massage uses firm pressure and deep strokes to target the inner layers of muscle tissues.

Additionally, trigger point therapy applies pressure to specific trigger points in the muscles. This can soften tight muscles, promote proper blood flow, and improve the range of motion. Regular massages can also prevent future neck pain by maintaining muscle flexibility and reducing stress levels.

TENS Aided Massage

Massage therapy is a non-invasive and holistic approach that can offer significant relief. Using a TENS machine can help enhance the benefits of massages, such as additional pain reduction and muscle relaxation. It is important to note that the use of TENS units in massage may vary depending on individual therapists.

A therapist places the electrodes on the treatment area before starting the massage. This helps reduce pain signals and stress levels. Moreover, many TENS machines have massage modes that mimic manual patterns, such as kneading or tapping. This can increase the overall pain relief and relaxation.

A man holding his glasses on one hand and touching the side of his neck

How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with Steroid Injections

In some cases, steroid injections may be necessary for effective neck pain relief. It can be a minimally invasive treatment, utilising the use of needles to deliver medication to the body. Corticosteroids are a type of anti-inflammatory drug typically used for the treatment of rheumatologic diseases. It is also recommended for those who have not found relief through conservative methods.

A healthcare professional will inject a corticosteroid medication around the nerves or spinal canal of the neck area. This approach delivers the drug right to the source of pain. The procedure is usually done under local anaesthesia to minimise discomfort. This helps to reduce swelling, providing temporary relief from chronic pain.

Before receiving a steroid injection, a medical professional will assess the medical history and condition of a person. They may also advise patients to avoid certain medications or activities that could interfere with the procedure. Thus, following the instructions before and after the procedure can help prevent the risk of complications.

Are Steroid Injections Safe?

Steroid injections are generally safe under the administration of a qualified professional. However, as with any medical procedure, there are potential risks and side effects to be aware of. Steroid injections can weaken tendons and ligaments and inhibit tendon repair. They can also lead to joint dysfunction and nerve damage.

Some common side effects include temporary pain at the injection site, temporary flare-up of pain after the injection, and changes in hormone levels. Additionally, long-term or frequent use of steroid injections can have systemic effects, such as weight gain, mood changes, and increased blood sugar levels.

A woman touching the back of her pained neck while sat at her desk

How to Achieve Neck Pain Relief with Medication

Medications are a common pain relief option for many individuals. They are affordable and easily accessible in pharmacies and drugstores. Various types of drugs can provide quick neck pain relief. The first kind is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. These medicines work by prohibiting the production of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that are responsible for inflammation.

The second kind is acetaminophen or paracetamol. These medications deal with pain perception in the brain and can reduce mild to moderate neck pain and fever. However, it does not reduce swelling. It can be an alternative for those who have adverse reactions to NSAIDs. Both paracetamol and NSAIDs are available over the counter.

On the other hand, muscle relaxants and opioids are stronger pain relievers that require a medical prescription. Muscle relaxants can help alleviate muscle spasms and tightness, while opioids like codeine or oxycodone can offer relief for intense pain. It is important to follow the dosage instructions carefully, as they have a high potential for abuse. Furthermore, opioids can cause side effects like drowsiness, constipation, and respiratory depression.

Possible Side Effects

  • NSAIDs: Gastrointestinal issues like stomach irritation, ulcers, and indigestion are common side effects. Long-term use may also risk kidney damage, bleeding in the GI tract, and peptic ulcer disease.
  • Paracetamol: Some people may experience rashes, stomach tenderness, breathlessness, nausea, and stomach cramps. It can also increase the risk of heart disease or stroke for those with high blood pressure.
  • Muscle relaxants: High doses may lead to drowsiness, dry mouth, weakness, constipation, and decreased blood pressure. More serious side effects include fainting, blurred vision, and difficulty urinating.
  • Opioids: Sedation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Misuse of opioids may lead to physical dependence, tolerance, and respiratory depression.

Conclusion

Individuals have wide options when looking for remedies for neck pain. TENS therapy is one of the effective non-medicated solutions method for neck pain relief. It utilises a portable electrode machine to deliver small electrical impulses to the body through the skin. Other natural methods are physical therapy, soft neck collars, home exercises, massage, and alternative therapies like acupuncture and chiropractic care. These options can provide relief by targeting the areas of pain.

OTC pain relievers like NSAIDs and paracetamols can offer quick neck relief. They are generally safe but may come with side effects for some people. For more severe neck conditions, spinal injections or stronger medications like muscle relaxers and opioids can help. Finally, consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable before starting any treatment regime. Getting the right diagnosis and treatment plan is vital for safe and effective pain management.

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