You drive, you ride, you walk, you sit, you stand, you sleep. If you’re not mindful, these basic activities can leave your neck (and other body parts) in pain. In order to prevent future neck pain, think about how you move through your days and nights and see if any of the conditions below apply to you.
Do you slouch when you drive, sit or eat?
Do you spend time studying or working on a laptop or iPad?
Do you slouch at work? Is your work chair uncomfortable?
When you sit, does your upper chest sink? Does your chin jut forward or sink into your chest?
Do you look down while using your smart phone? Are you on your phone a lot?
Do you regularly carry heavy loads (backpack, groceries, children, supplies), especially on one shoulder?
Do you stand for long periods? Do you stand with your weight on one leg habitually?
Do you read while commuting? Do you fall asleep while reading or commuting?
Do you read in bed? Do you fall asleep reading in bed?
Do you sleep on two or three pillows?
If you answered “yes” to several of these scenarios, it might explain why you have periodic neck pain.
Here are 8 tips that help provide relief.
- IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE: The curves of the spine compliment each other. When your pelvis is in the correct position, the rest of the spine aligns into proper place. Wearing heeled boots or high heels might lead to a tendency to tip the pelvis forward. Slouching or tight leg muscles can lead to a tendency to tip the pelvis backwards. Imagine your pelvis is like a bowl of water: don’t let it slosh out forward or spill backwards. Keeping the pelvis in “neutral” allows your mid-back and neck to move into alignment. The position of your pelvis might be harder to visualize when you’re sitting. Lift up slightly through the chest, and you’ll feel your low back releasing and your chin drawing back slightly, with your head floating in a more neutral position. You can also roll up a washcloth and position it horizontally in the center of your spine under the lower edge of your shoulder blades to encourage this subtle chest lift (you’ll have to experiment with the best position; for me, the washcloth goes just under the level of my bra strap). Here’s one more hint for driving: find your best posture, with chest slightly lifted and your chin level, and adjust your mirrors for best viewing. So the next time you get in your car, your mirrors will help you find and maintain your best posture (thanks, Sean Smith!).
- PRACTICE YOGA: Yoga teaches alignment. The standing poses are especially profound for teaching you where your body is in space, what constitutes good alignment, and how to stand with comfort (it might take some practice). When you can move your shoulders and hips more freely, your spine becomes liberated to maintain the curves it was meant to support. If you’ve never taken yoga, it’s great to start with an intro class.
- APPLY A MEDICATED PATCH: I like patches that include aromatic Chinese herbs that bring relief more quickly. Most patches have the strongest effect in the initial 4-6 hours after applying. Apply a patch after showering. Make sure the fragrance won’t keep you awake at night. The patch can be removed after 18-24 hours, or the next time you shower. Give the skin a day’s rest before applying another patch. I always have a package of patches on hand at home and always include a pack in my suitcase when I travel. You can also apply a medicated oil, such as Wan Hua Pain Relieving Oil, Tiger Balm or White Flower Oil.
- MASSAGE YOUR EARS: Your ears are a micro-system. A micro-system uses the concept of a BODY PART to treat the WHOLE BODY. To treat your neck, vigorously rub just above your ear lobe (on the helix/outer edge and anti-helix/ridge next to helix) on both ears. Your ear may feel tender and warm, and might even turn pink. That’s a good sign! Massage for at least10 minutes.
- MASSAGE YOUR HANDS: The hands are also a micro-system, and here’s how it works. Imagine your hand is like a giraffe, drinking water from a pool: your thumb & little finger are the back legs (corresponding to your legs), your index and ring finger are the front legs (corresponding to your arms) and your middle finger corresponds to your mid-back, neck and head (the tip of your middle finger corresponds to your head). So to relieve neck pain, vigorously massage the middle segment of the middle finger on both hands. Pay attention to the sides of the middle finger and the back side of the hand. While you’re at it, massage the middle finger segment closest to the palm, because neck pain can often travel down to the upper and mid-back. You can also use a pen or chopstick for more pressure.
- ROLLING FINGER RING: My favorite hand tool is a rolling finger ring. Massage the middle segment of the middle finger on both hands for at least 10 minutes. Also massage the middle finger segment closest to the palm (as above), because neck pain can often travel down to the upper and mid-back.
- ROLLED HAND TOWEL: Nap or sleep on a rolled up hand towel (secure the ends with a rubber band so it doesn’t unravel). This will support a normal cervical curve. You may need to start with just 10 minutes until you adjust to longer periods of time.
- TAKE A BATH: Add 4 cups of Epsom salts to a warm/hot bath. Soak all the way up to your hairline (your knees may pop out). In order to get the benefits of the bath and not further aggravate your neck, make sure you have a bath pillow or a rolled up towel to support a normal cervical curve while you are soaking (see #7 above).
If, after trying these suggestions, you are still in discomfort, you may need cupping, gua sha, acupuncture or an herbal formula for more relief. Call or text for an appointment: 310-617-4194.
Photography & Production by Carin Krasner Photography © 2017