That Pesky Neck Pain- 7 Quick Tricks

Neck pain is a nuisance for many of us. It can take many forms: a general tension, an ache, or a sharp burning pain. Pain can radiate down the arm, or even into the head. Worst of all, it’s impossible to ignore. We’re going to talk about a few easy things you can do to help your ailing neck.

DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be medical advice specific to your condition. Before attempting any of these suggestions listed above, please consult with your physician or physical therapist first.

Get the Tension out of the Muscles

Believe it or not, very often the cause of neck tension is tightness in the thoracic spine below it [link to Most Important and Most Ignored: the Thoracic Spine]. Too often with neck issues this area gets overlooked and needs to be mobilized- link to video of upper TS mobilization before attempting treatment on the neck itself.

I’ve found that when it comes to the neck, stretching muscles usually does more harm than good. It’s much better to accommodate these tight muscles rather than directly challenge them. This means slackening the muscles instead of stretching. Support your arms on good armrests and take gravity’s tension out of the shoulders.

Take time to lie down on your side or back with the tight shoulder shrugged up or your hand resting on top of your head (passively in these positions, not actively holding them!) to decompress and release tension. You’re giving the neck what it wants for a short bit and it will likely help. [link to getting tension out of the neck- a video]

Traction your Neck

If you have a willing spouse, lie back and have them cradle your head and gently pull, tractioning your spine. Make sure this is gentle at first and not something out of the movie Braveheart. You can hold for up to 10 minutes if you want.

Practice good, Diaphragmatic Breathing

Too many of us breathe with our chest and neck muscles instead of properly using our diaphragm. This is a small thing you can do that has profound effects. Take 5 good diaphragmatic breaths every 1-2 hours. Focus on your lower ribs expanding out to the sides and keep your shoulders relaxed. [See our video on how to do this]

Support the Natural Curvature when you Lie Down

Just to give that tired neck a break from holding your head up, lie down or recline. But when you do this, make sure you have a little support under your neck (NOT the back of the head) to support its natural backward curve. Roll up a small towel, sweatshirt, or anything. You’ll know it’s in the right place when you want to say “ahhh”! [link to getting tension out of the neck- a video]

Go Easy on the Lifting and Head Twisting

This should be obvious, but this isn’t the time to go haul firewood or stay up all night finishing the last few chapters of that novel. Your arms and neck need to rest and recover. Don’t put them in positions to flare up.

Get the Ergonomics Right

If you work at a computer, or sit a good amount of the day, this is vital. Get yourself sitting upright with a good lumbar support, get your workstation set up right, and have a good place for your arms to be. A headset isn’t a bad idea either. [link to ergonomics section].


Exercises can help you loosen things, but again, be very careful with an angry neck. They are sometimes best left alone when it comes to exercise, so less is more. As I said above, stretch your neck sparingly. For these exercises, start with just a few (no more than 10 reps) the first day to see how you tolerate it. I like gentle nerve glides, chin tucks, and the reach and roll .