The ultimate guide to home remedies to relieve neck pain

neck pain reliefIn many cases home remedies for neck pain work better than traditional therapy and medication. The home remedies that I will be sharing with you in this article have been learned from a variety of sources, including friends, family, medical professionals, acupuncturists, massage therapists, basically anyone who would give me advice.  I’ve also done quite a bit of research on neck pain home remedies in my own search for pain relief.  And of course my own trial and error has contributed greatly to my recommendations for neck pain relief at home!

Try Kinesiology Tape

This is now one of my favorite things to use when I get a kink, or any other neck pain for that matter. You simply apply a few strips of the fabric-like tape to your neck, and the relief is nearly immediate. It’s all natural and easy to use (see my other article which has more information about it as well as videos that will demonstrate how to apply it). Kinesiology tape, or KT tape, promotes quick healing and increases mobility and range of motion. It’s a simple solution but works really well! I like the KT Tape Pro, which is available in a bunch of colors on Amazon.

Never use a thick pillow

Neck pain can be caused when we make a sudden change in our sleeping positions or make changes to our bed or mattress.  Existing neck pain can be aggravated by using the wrong pillow, especially if it is too thick or firm.  Some people get neck pain, or their pain increases, whenever they have to stay at hotels or when they travel and sleep in different beds.  This is definitely true with me.  The wrong pillow can make me wake up in absolute agony!

One of the simplest way to get relief from neck pain is to replace your thick pillow with a feather or crushed-foam pillow (in case you can’t not find a good pillow, in a pinch a super soft towel also works great).  You can also use a firm mattress with no pillow, so that your head is in alignment with your spine when you sleep.  This works if you sleep on your back.  I personally travel with a really great small down travel pillow.  It’s made by a really cool company, All About Down, that makes their products in the US, and the pillow is filled with European goose down.  I have actually bought this pillow twice because I left it behind in a hotel room and lost the first one I had.  Ridiculous, I know.  On a few occasions I’ve forgotten it and had the hotel ship it back to me (when they could find it!).  It’s not a cheap pillow, but it’s wonderful.  I use it at home as well as when I travel.

I know sleeping with too thick a pillow always causes me pain.  I travel with my own small down travel pillow because most hotel pillows are not comfortable.

Ice it

Ice is a great natural pain reliever, especially when you are experiencing acute neck pain.  You can always use a plastic ziplock bag with crushed ice in it and cover the bag with a pillowcase or thin towel.  Use that on your neck for not more than 15 minutes at a time.  A bag of frozen peas also works well.  A classic ice bag is helpful if you’ll be icing frequently.  Icing will help decrease inflammation in the neck.  You only want to do it several times a day though.

Have a hot shower or use heat

You can take a hot shower because heat increases blood circulation in your neck muscles. But don’t stand under a hot shower more than  10 minutes as too much heat around your neck muscles only increases the pain.  You can use a hot water bottle as well if you don’t feel like taking a shower.  Make sure to get a good one like this that won’t leak!  I recently discovered a bonus use for my hot water bottle when I was on a safari in Kenya.  On cold nights the camp would put a hot water bottle in the bed at night and it did an amazing job of first of all warming up the cold bed before you get into it, and also kept me warm for hours!

Alternatively, I find a microwavable neck pillow like this Earth Therapeutics one to be really easy, helpful, and soothing.  It’s reusable and not expensive.  The warm weight of it sitting on my shoulders and nice scent makes it really relaxing.

Alternating heat and cold therapy

This strategy can be one of the most effective home remedy for relieving acute neck pain.  I often ice my neck after a hot shower or using heat.  Use hot and cold therapy alternatively during the day, several times each, for only about 15 minutes each time.

Breathing and relaxation exercises

As we have discussed in other articles, abdominal breathing and progressive relaxation are one of the best ways to get relief from neck pain.  This is because most neck pain is aggravated by muscle tension and stress, which naturally goes right along with pain! Unfortunately it’s just a vicious cycle.

Biofeedback

I have done biofeedback sessions in a clinic a number of times for my neck pain and I’m a huge believer in it. The best type of feedback to use for neck pain is called EMG, or electromyography. EMG biofeedback trains you to recognize tension and trains you to relax your neck muscles. Although it takes a bit of time and effort to learn, it pays off. Biofeedback can train you to release the muscle tension that accompanies and aggravates neck pain. Biofeedback teaches you to control physiological responses in your body that you may have thought are impossible to control, like heart rate. It’s also a great solution for stress related conditions of all kinds.

Biofeedback is a wonderful drug free and natural therapy that can be done in a clinic or at home. In the past, EMG biofeedback equipment was expensive and difficult to use, but there is now a consumer version that is available and easy to use with a companion app, available from a company called Xen Health.

Perform neck exercises

There are a wide range of motion exercises that help you to stretch your neck muscles.  A few helpful ones are discussed in this other article.

Poor tone in your core muscles also puts more stress on your neck and upper back.  Perform exercises such as bent-knee curls which strengthen and stabilize your core muscles as well as your upper back.  There are many core exercises that will ultimately help your neck pain, but be sure to discuss with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Get a massage

After a hot bath ask someone to massage your neck and solders, even better if you’re using a massaging cream or lotion.  Ask your partner to apply gentle pressure in small circular motions near your neck and use long & downward strokes around your shoulders.  The massage session should not extend more than 15 minutes.  Alternately, if you don’t have a willing or skilled person around to help massage your neck, some of the electronic massagers work really well.  This shiatsu massage pillow is one of my favorites for getting into the knots in my upper back and neck, where I hold a lot of tension which contributes greatly to my pain.  It also has a heat setting which is wonderful as well.  I particularly like it because I can just rest on it and don’t have to hold anything like some of the hand held massagers.  I can also adjust my position and thus the pressure by moving around, using it on a couch or bed, using pillows, etc.

Use acetaminophen or another NSAID

Acetaminophen is a nonprescription pain reliever without major side effects.  NSAIDs (this stands for “non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug”) can reduce inflammation and relieve neck pain.  Be sure to discuss with your doctor before taking any medication, and always follow the recommended dosage guidelines.  In cases of acute pain, your doctor may prescribe the use of an NSAID for several weeks to really combat the acute inflammation.  Over the counter NSAIDs can be effective if used according to the directions and you do not have any allergies or sensitivities to them.

Pay attention to your posture

Poor posture causes the curve of our lower back to move forward and to compensate for it, the upper back curves backward.  This causes our neck to curve forward in a strained position.  Try standing with your back against the wall and try to keep up that upright posture throughout the day.  Another way is to learn more about the Alexander technique or other techniques to improve your posture such as yoga.

Maintain a healthy body weight

Being an overweight is also the cause of poor posture and can cause or aggravate neck pain, so make sure you maintain a healthy body weight.

Drop those work habits that hurt your neck

Unlearn work habits like looking up or downwards during work for longer periods of time, holding the phone between your neck and shoulder, slumping in your chair, and so on. Working at eye level and avoiding the above habits can bring down the chances of getting neck pain from the way you work.  Biofeedback can be a very effective technique for unlearning bad habits if you can find a qualified practitioner in your area.

Take breaks

Get up from your office chair and walk around at least once every hour.  More if possible!  If you are in a physically stressful position, keep changing your body position to prevent neck pain.  If you forget to move around regularly, set an alarm on your kitchen time or cell phone to remind you.

I actually use a sit stand desk to alternate my working position since I spend long hours at the computer, and it helps immensely.  The more you can change your position the better.

Let us know what works for you!

If you have any home remedies which have helped to relieve (or even better eliminate!) your neck pain, please share them using the comment form below.  We would love to hear from you!

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