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Releasing Neck Tension

Like millions of others, I carry a great deal of tension in my neck. The result is pain and a reduced range of motion. This tension is caused by a typical, familiar list of foes, including stress, posture, sitting at my desk, and long drives. I do find relief, though, and not always from pharmaceuticals.

If you have neck tension, it’s best first to determine its cause, so seek an accurate diagnosis from your health care provider and follow their treatment recommendations carefully.


There are many ways to ease the chronic pain that comes with ongoing tension in the neck. Tight muscles need a break, and the causes of the tension need to be proactively addressed. Your neck is at work during most of your waking hours, so take good care of this vital body part.

 

What Causes Neck Tension?

Let’s explore a few common culprits of neck tension:


Posture

  • Stand at a full-length mirror, take a couple of deep breaths with your eyes closed, and try to relax without giving any thought to how you are positioning your body while standing.
  • Now, open your eyes and have a critical look at your reflection.
    • Are your shoulders even and balanced, or is one shoulder higher than the other?
    • Is your pelvis level?
    • Or does one hip sit more elevated than the other?
    • Do your knees bow in or out? 
  • Now, have someone assess your posture from the side. You will need a plumb bob and a string to hang from the ceiling.
  • Then, stand with the side of your body in line with the string.

If you are in an optimal postural alignment, there are several points on your body that should line up with the plumb line: earlobes, shoulder, hips, knees, and ankles.

Deviations away from the string may suggest that you are in less than an ideal posture. 

  • Is there an excessive sway in your back?
  • Is your upper back hunched over?
  • Do your head and chin poke forward?

Postural deviations can cause all sorts of negative issues, including neck tension.

See your health care professional to determine if you have any postural deviations that need correction. Their recommendations may include orthotics, physiotherapy, or other treatments.


Work Station

If your work requires you to sit at a desk, stand at a counter, or require repetitive movements for long periods, it’s a safe bet that this may be linked to your neck tension.

  • Examine your posture while working, have a professional evaluate your ergonomics while working, and explore ways that you can relieve some of your prolonged positions and repetitive movements. 
Products such as knee braces, orthotics, and elbow sleeves may offer some relief.
  • Take micro-breaks often, and change up your movement patterns as much as possible while working.
  • Numerous effective stretches can be done to relieve neck tension without interrupting your workday significantly.
  • Have a heating pad or reusable cold pack at the ready for managing any discomfort.

Stress

I know that I tighten my neck muscles and become rigid whenever I experience additional stressors. So, I know that I need to practice my relaxation techniques.

  • These include several minutes of focused breathing, moving to a quiet space, and focused attention on my posture.
  • I actively lower my shoulders and move my head, neck, and shoulders through a series of deep, prolonged stretches.
Stress is a given, and it can be both positive and negative stressors that increase neck tension. By being mindful of your own stressors, and how they affect you, you can develop better coping mechanisms and reduce neck tension.

Lifestyle

I love to resistance train, and I know the importance of proper form and avoiding unsafe exercises. However, an intense workout or extended physical activity can result in some tension in the muscles serving my neck and shoulders. These muscles need a thorough stretch, just like hamstrings and triceps.

  • Include stretches for your neck in your post-workout routine.
  • If you have a sedentary lifestyle, neck muscles can become tense because of poor posture caused by weak back, shoulder, and neck muscles.

Again, it’s essential to have your healthcare provider pinpoint precisely what is causing your neck tension.

  • Still, you may find relief in stretching, using heat to relax muscles, and cold packs to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • I also find an epsom salt bath to be beneficial, along with regular exercise, massage, and yoga.

 

Obviously, it’s impossible to remove all stressors from our lives, nor should we do so. It’s important to recognize and address stress as allowing it to go unchecked is a significant concern.

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