Everyone experiences neck and shoulder pain once in a while. Stress, lack of exercise, and poor posture all add up, leaving you with stiff, tense muscles. Fortunately, there are things at home you can do to reduce your discomfort. Check out this list of ten simple things to help decrease your neck and shoulder pain.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is your body’s way of letting you know there is a problem. It signals your immune system that it needs to start fighting off an infection or heal an injury. The beginning of pain is always inflammation. It doesn’t matter whether your pain is sharp, achy, dull, burning, stabbing, or tingling, all pain comes from inflammation.
The best way to reduce your neck and shoulder pain is to figure out:
- What’s causing the injury to your neck and shoulders
- How to reduce the inflammation associated with that injury
10 best ways to decrease your neck and shoulder pain at home
1 – Yoga
Yoga emphasizes relaxation techniques based on mind-body workouts. It can help ease the stress and tension in your muscles using stretching and strengthening poses. Practicing yoga is a great way to decrease your existing neck pain plus relieve the stress in your mind so you can relax.
3 – Stretching exercises
Like yoga, stretching helps ease the stiffness and pain in your neck and shoulder muscles. Stretching takes minutes, but you’ll experience the benefits last for hours. Here are three basic stretches you can do at home. Try these stretches a couple of times a day to maximize the benefits.
Shoulder and neck rolls
Sit down on the floor with your hands on your knees. Be sure you’re sitting straight with relaxed shoulders. Lower your chin to your chest, then gently roll your head to the right until your ear is touching your shoulder. Then with one hand reach over your head and gently stretch. Then with your other hand gently push your shoulder in the other direction.
Stand straight and gently place your arm across your body until there is gentle stretching. Use your other arm to support this arm. Hold for a minute, breathing full deep breaths and exhaling them. Then switch arms and do the same thing.
Forward bend stretch
Sit on the floor, legs stretched out straight in front of you. Slowly bend forward and fold your body toward your legs until you can hold your heels in the palm of your hand. Your chest should touch your knees or at least get pretty close. Gently lower your chin so it is tucked to your chest. Count to three and slowly move back into your original position.
3 – Rest
Rest presents a unique challenge for many people. It’s difficult to stop in the middle of your busy schedule to rest. But, rest can be a simple, but effective way to ease your neck and shoulder pain.
If the pain in your neck and shoulders is unbearable, try total bed rest for a day or two. Be sure you keep the natural curve of your spin while in bed with your neck in a comfortable position. If you’re on your back, put a pillow under your knees to reduce strain off your back. Don’t watch television or read with your head propped up, instead sit up or rest on several pillows so your shoulders and neck feel relaxed.
If you can’t afford the time for complete bed rest, try taking a break every afternoon from your work and other activities for a 20 minute rest time. You can sit on a sofa with your feet propped up or lay down in your bed, whichever one works best for you to just relax your neck and shoulders. Don’t answer your phone or look at emails. Just concentrate on relaxing. If it helps you, listen to quiet music or drink a cup of herbal tea. Before you know it, you’ll feel more relaxed with less pain.
4 – Ice
Icing your shoulder and neck may help relieve pain. Try icing these areas for 20 minutes every few hours during the first few days of the injury. Ice will relieve the pain plus help the muscles around the area to relax to reduce tightness.
5 – Heat
Like ice, heat is an effective natural pain reliever. The warmth stimulates blood flow and loosens your tight muscles. Try using these different heat therapies for several weeks to see if it works at relieving your neck and shoulder pain.
- Hot towel wrapped on your neck and shoulders (be sure it’s not too hot)
- Heating pad (place on the painful area for 20” every hour)
- Sauna or hot tub (stay in the warmth for at least 20 minutes)
- Warm bath with Epsom salts (Soak in the tub for 15 to 20 minutes)
6 – Anti-inflammatory diet
If you feel like you’re always fighting neck and shoulder pain, it could be that you have an inflammatory problem. Food is a powerful anti-inflammatory remedy. Studies show that eating foods like those found in a Mediterranean diet can ease the pain of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and oily fish is healthier than eating processed foods and refined grains. Even a small change to your diet helps reduce inflammation.
An anti-inflammatory diet relaxes your immune systems’ response, giving your body a break from inflammation. There are some foods that increase inflammation in your body.
Inflammatory foods to avoid:
- Soda and sugar-based drinks (even some seltzers have sugar)
- Fried foods
- Refined carbohydrates like white rice and bread, and baked goods
- Red meat and processed meats
- Lard, shortening, and margarine
- Gluten causes inflammation in some people
Anti-inflammatory foods to add to your diet:
- Tomatoes: These are nightshade plants but don’t cause inflammation
- Extra virgin olive oil: be sure to buy a good quality olive oil
- Fatty fish: salmon, mackerel, sardines
- Nuts and seeds
- Oatmeal: be sure it’s raw
- Green tea
- Dark chocolate
- Red beets
- Black beans
Did you know that staying hydrated avoids inflammation? Drinking lots of water builds up your synovial fluid, or sometimes called joint fluid, in between your joints. The fluid in your joints cushions the ends of your bones so there is less friction. Proper hydration reduces inflammation by keeping your shock-absorber cartilage working well.
8 – Massage
Getting a massage is just what the doctor ordered for your painful muscles around your neck and shoulders. Massage is rubbing, pressing, and manipulating the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. There are different types of massage, including
- Swedish massage: This gentle massage uses longer kneading strokes and deep circular movements to relax.
- Deep massage: This technique is slower and more forceful to get to the deeper layers of your muscles and tissue.
- Sports massage: Similar to a Swedish massage, but it’s used for people who are in sports to treat and prevent injuries.
- Trigger point massage: This type of massage works on tight muscle fibers that build up in your muscles in overworked or injured areas.
Always go to a trained massage therapist. You can end up in more pain if the person isn’t trained correctly. Schedule a massage once a week until you are pain-free, then continue with maintenance massages to prevent pain from returning.
9 – Correct your posture
Your mom knew best when she told you to stand up straight. Correct posture rectifies neck and muscle pain. Slouching or bending forward puts undue strain on your neck and shoulders. Check yourself in the mirror to see if you are standing correctly. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to develop bad posture habits. Ask your family or a friend to tell you when you slouch or ask your mom, she’ll tell you.
10 – Limit computer screen time
Get up and walk around your house for a few minutes. Do a couple of stretches or go outside for a brisk walk around the block. Breaking up your computer time gives your muscles a break so they can rest and recoup. You may need to change your workspace to find a new desk or chair. Standing desks have grown in popularity because they help alleviate shoulders and neck pain, and they’re healthier for you than sitting all day. Ergonomic desk chairs are built to reduce the strain on your neck or shoulders.
So what happens if you try to improve your neck and shoulder pain at home with little improvement? Here are two next steps.
See a chiropractor
Chiropractors manipulate your back so your spine is in proper alignment. These manipulations stimulate blood flow and release tension in your muscles and nerve areas. Once your spine is in alignment, it improves your body’s function and your spine’s motion. A trained chiropractor can find ways to adjust your neck and shoulders to release the pain and tension in those areas.
A physical therapist will work to improve areas of weakness or stiffness around your neck and shoulders, which could be causing pain. They’ll treat the areas with low impact exercise, strengthening exercises, and pain relief exercises. They usually give you homework: exercises and stretches for you to do at home. Physical therapists’ strength is getting to the source of your pain.
Neck and shoulder pain are distractions that interrupt your life. Finding natural home remedies to prevent and treat your neck and shoulder pain is best. Hopefully, these 10 suggestions will help decrease your neck and shoulder pain to help you get back to feeling your best and being your healthiest.