Some fixtures of everyday life — like sitting at a desk, using a smartphone, and chronic stress — can make healthy living hard. These activities encourage us to be tense, sedentary, sleep-deprived, and maintain odd posture that almost always cause us pain.
Moreover, although many people’s neck pain has physical (postural, occupational) roots, psychological stress plays an even bigger role. That explains why most neck pain is compounding, comes from everyday habits, and isn’t traceable to any specific injury.
Given everything that can cause it, it’s not surprising that about 70% of adults have had, currently have, or will have neck pain. With a one-in-ten chance that any neck pain you experience will be severe and lasting, it pays to know what's proven to help minimize and manage neck pain. Especially stress management tactics and environmental/habitual changes.
Most neck pain starts where physical strain and emotional stress meet. So it makes sense that releasing physical and emotional tension is a good place to start managing it. That’s why practices that combine mindfulness and physical activity, like yoga, can noticeably diminish neck pain. What’s more, these kinds of neck stretches and strengthening exercises are critical to preventing neck pain in the first place.
Stress stimulates your central nervous system to release hormones that tighten your muscles. This causes stiffness, pain, and muscle spasms. It follows, then, that stress management tactics that release tension and disrupt stress-induced nervous system overstimulation can help. Some tactics may reduce disabling neck pain by as much as 50%, including:
You can use healing plants and natural herbs to manage neck pain whether it has a physical or emotional cause. Many different herbal remedies have some degree of scientific backing for their use as neck pain relievers. These natural supplements and topical salves contain healthful, plant-based ingredients like devil’s claw, menthol, and camphor. These ingredients relax muscles, soothe the central nervous system, and minimize pain.
People who suffer from neck tension tend to feel more stress, be less active, and rate their quality of life lower than people who don’t. That’s why it can help to prioritize stress relief, increase your healthful movement, and adopt better healthy living behaviors. Even simply choosing to roll your shoulders back while watching TV (to maintain better posture) can prove beneficial.
Poor sleep hygiene can exacerbate stress and central nervous system overstimulation. What’s more, bad or insufficient sleep or sleeping in an awkward position can increase muscle tension and cause muscle strains. Investing in the right mattress and pillow can make a big difference in neck pain severity and duration. The same is true for taking natural supplements before bed that induce relaxation and promote sleep.
Some environmental changes — choosing a better desk chair, putting your computer screen at eye level, and using an ergonomic keyboard and mouse — can make a big difference. That’s because people often put their bodies in awkward positions to accommodate their workstation. Taking the opposite approach can prevent hunching, slouching, and craning your neck.
It can be tempting to try to handle neck pain on your own. Yet it can help to consult experts in traditional medicine, holistic medicine, and the science of healthy living. For example, there is some empirical evidence that acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment, mechanical traction, and electrotherapy can relieve neck pain.
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