Let’s talk about neck pain because neck pain is one of the most prevalent issues around the world at any one time. When I last looked, it was up to 75% of people globally will experience neck pain at any one time. That blew my mind, considering how simple the steps are to avoid neck pain. In my experience, there are three simple steps you can take to reduce that neck pain.
Step 1: Stop what you’re doing
The first step is to stop.
You have got to stop and step back and look at your environment. I have a saying at the clinic, we are expressions of our environment. Sometimes you are not aware of how much of an impact that environment can have on your pain.
When your environment is stressful, and it’s working you up, it’s going to be elevating your nervous system. When that nervous system gets boosted, it becomes super sensitive. So whatever that structure is, or whatever is causing that pain signal in the first place, it’s going to be elevated and way more intense.
Take a step back and stop what you’re doing – look at what is happening around you and how it could be impacting you. It is a massive first step to reducing your neck pain because you can either avoid it, or remove yourself from the environment. And if you can’t, then learn to accept the situation; this will provide you with the power to put your pain into perspective and avoid those nasty thoughts creeping in about the pain resulting from damage. It may have just been your kids screaming in the background or a stressful argument with a co-worker.
Step 2: How breathing can help your Neck Pain
The second step should be second nature. Breathe.
It sounds too simple, but you could quickly be feeling stressed or worried about what could be causing the neck pain when you think about it. That low level of anxiousness can lead you to breathe shallowly, forcing you to use the upper parts of your lungs. Those big lungs are like upside-down trees; all the quality breathing happens in the bottom of the chest.
The upper part of your chest, where the base of your neck is, doesn’t function well breathing for the whole lungs. And can put undue stress on the neck as all the neck muscles are getting extra toned and tight from being used to get air in. Add this is on top of the neck pain, and you have yourself a nasty neck pain cycle of doom.
Neck pain = stress & worry = shallow breathing = tight neck muscles = neck pain
Now it is time to take a deep breath in and a long breath out – filling up the bottom of those lungs and letting your shoulder tension release as you breathe out slowly. You are guaranteed to calm your nervous system down after doing a couple of these, totally de-stressing, and it reduces that tension that you’ll be feeling in your neck.
Now you can do all types of different breathing exercises. The most common one you will see is the box breath. Click the link below for a guided box breathe work out with one of our physios.
Remember to Breathe, breathe deeply and let that tension disappear.
Step 3: How movement can help your Neck Pain
It is time to move.
You got to move your neck. Now, I understand when you have neck pain, you do not want to move it. You’re worried that you might cause more damage, or you might even make it worse. But not using your neck leads to a longer recovery from pain overall.
Your neck is essentially the bridge from your body to your head, and it is the primary connection for the brain to control everything your body does. And for this reason, it is super protective. So even the slightest irritation can cause a ‘lock up’ of your neck – by not moving it, you’re amplifying the defensive response and ultimately making your neck stiffer and more painful.
In my experience of over 20,000 consultations, and at an estimate, around 80% of those were neck pain. My understanding is that there is rarely enough damage to stop you from moving your neck. If you are obviously in a traumatic car accident, then there may be some significant trauma. But, If you’ve just woken up with a bit of neck pain, or you’re at work at your desk and you develop some neck pain, it’s not going to be severe enough damage for you not to move your neck.
By moving your neck, you’re going to be sending a different signal to it. You are sending a positive message to your brain, saying it is ok to move my neck. And as you move it more and more, those joints start compressing and releasing like a sponge, helping it get all the good nutrients in. Which ultimately helps it heal and starts breaking down that protective response that often leads to pain.
So move that neck. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Conclusion: Learn to trust your body again
Ultimately, relief from neck pain boils down to how much you trust your body. When we don’t trust our bodies, in particular our necks, we remain in a state of stress, anxiousness and fear that any movement we make is going to make it worse. Remember to STOP what your are doing and assess your environment, focus on your BREATHING and free yourself from creating more tension, and keep moving your neck to remind it that it’s not damaged. Do these simple 3 steps and you’ll be well on your way to neck pain relief.
Try the Trust Your Body Again Scorecard
After 6 months of research, over 9 years of physio experience, and over 20,000 consultations – The Body Trust Scorecard was created to benchmark your ability to Trust Your Body Again, in the context of how your pain impacts your life. It identifies the opportunities and areas that will get you back doing the things your love again.
In less than 2 minutes and answering simple Yes/No questions, you will finally learn what you need to do for pain relief, for good.