Whether caused by sports injury or simply sitting at a desk all day long, neck pain is one of the most common kinds of chronic discomfort. Sound familiar? Trust us, you're not alone. As cited by the National Institutes of Health, distress in the neck is the culprit for roughly 15 percent of all chronic pain sufferers.
While there are various sources of neck pain (from strains and injuries to stress retention that manifests itself from the shoulders up), relief may be as simple as practicing preventative methods of health maintenance-like stretching! Zeel Experts recommend three basic stretches using nothing more than your own body - and maybe a pool noodle! - for enhanced physical wellness.
The all-around stretch.
First, bring the chin to the chest and push down from behind the head. Then bring the ear to the shoulder, and use the same side arm to pull down. Switch sides. Afterward, turn your chin to your shoulder, and then down to your chest (use the same side arm to pull downward). Switch sides. Finally, tilt your head straight back, and push on your forehead with both hands. Finish up with rotations in both directions.
Noodle away your neck pain.
"Pool noodles abound this time of year, and they make for great, inexpensive traction and stretching tools," says massage expert and chiropractic assistant CJ Shipp. "Here's two ways you can use them."
1. Drape the pool noodle over your shoulders, setting the center point right at the base of your neck. Pull the noodle with your hands, or tuck under your arms, and bend your head slowly in circles at the same time. If it hurts, stop! This is a perfect thing to do every couple of hours to keep mobility in your neck and shoulders, especially for desk and computer workers.
2. Cut off a foot-long section of the pool noodle and rest it under your neck while you lie on a firm surface for five to 10 minutes. It acts as a cervical traction pillow, eases weight from overused neck muscles and in some cases can even provide point stimulation.
Remember to take slow, deep breaths as you stretch. Your body will get the message that it's okay to relax.
Hands behind your head!
This stretch, which can be done several times a day, comes to us from licensed massage therapist Rafael Blandin, who first encourages readers to check with a doctor before self-prescribing any treatment for neck pain. Once that's done, he recommends this simple movement, which can be completed from a standing or seated position, as long as good posture is maintained.
Interlock the fingers of your hands. Place your hands on the back of your head, just above ear-level. Gently let your head and neck relax as you lightly guide your head forward and downward so your chin touches your chest (or draws closer to it). Do not force the stretch. As soon as you feel the muscles in the back of your neck stretching, hold the position for about 15 seconds. Come back up to the start position for about 10 seconds, and then repeat the stretch.
Next, try the same motion, this time gently pushing slightly to the right as you tilt your head forward and downward. Hold for 15 seconds. Then come back up to the starting position, and do the same toward the left.