Once you’ve addressed any posture issues, you can try the five strength exercises that follow to help relieve neck pain. A study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism showed that strength training targeting the neck and shoulder muscles is the most beneficial treatment for women with chronic neck muscle pain as opposed to a general fitness routine. Detailed explanations of how to perform each exercise are provided by the National Research Centre for the Working Environment:
- Dumbbell shrug
Stand upright with the hand weights at the side of your body. In one even motion, lift your shoulders up towards your ears and lower them again slowly. At the same time, try to relax your jaw and neck.
- One-arm row
Stand with one knee on the bench and lean on the same-side hand on the front of the bench. With the free arm you pull the weight up towards your lower chest. When the weight touches your chest, lower it in a controlled motion.
- Upright row
Stand upright with your arms stretched and the hand weights in front of your body. Lift the weights in a straight line as close to your body as possible, until they reach the middle of your chest and your elbows point up and out. During the whole exercise, the hand weights should be placed lower than the elbows.
- Reverse fly
Lie down on a bench in a 45° forward bent angle with the hand weights hanging towards the floor. Lift the weights outward and upward until they are horizontal, and then lower the weights in one controlled motion. During the exercise, the elbows should be slightly bent.
- Lateral raise/shoulder abduction
Stand upright with the hand weights at the side of your body. Lift the weights outward and upward until they are horizontal, and then lower the weights in one controlled motion. During the exercise, the elbows should be slightly bent.
Additional Non-Drug Options for Treating Neck Pain
There are many other options for treating chronic pain than drugs. A variety of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatments (including acupuncture, massage, spinal manipulation, and mobilization) were deemed to be significantly more efficacious than no treatment, placebo, physical therapy, or usual care (i.e. drugs) in reducing pain immediately or at short-term after treatment for those with neck or low-back pain. That said, if you have any type of chronic pain, the four steps I recommend doing first, include:
- Start taking a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat like krill oil. Omega-3 fats are precursors to mediators of inflammation called prostaglandins. (In fact, that is how anti-inflammatory painkillers work, they positively influence prostaglandins.) The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA contained in krill oil have been found in many animal and clinical studies to have anti-inflammatory properties, which are beneficial for pain relief.
- Reduce your intake of most processed foods as not only do they contain sugar and additives but most are loaded with oxidized omega-6 fats that upset your delicate omega-3:omega-6 ratio, which will contribute to inflammation, a key factor in most pain.
- Eliminate or radically reduce most grains (especially wheat) and sugars (especially fructose) from your diet. Avoiding grains and sugars will lower your insulin and leptin levels. Elevated insulin and leptin levels are one of the most profound stimulators of inflammatory prostaglandin production. That is why eliminating sugar and grains is so important to controlling your pain.
- Optimize your production of vitamin D by getting regular, appropriate sun exposure, which will work through a variety of different mechanisms to reduce your pain.
Once these factors are addressed, you can try these safe pain-relief techniques to help eliminate your pain without the need for prescription drugs:
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT): Few people want to be told that their pain is psychological or emotional in origin, but there’s quite a bit of evidence that backs this up. Underlying emotional issues and unresolved trauma can have a massive influence on your health, particularly as it relates to physical pain. According to Dr. John Sarno, a psychiatrist who uses mind-body techniques to treat patients with severe low back pain, EFT has a greater than 80 percent success rate.
- Chiropractic adjustments: According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and funded by the National Institutes of Health, patients with neck pain who used a chiropractor and/or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain free in 12 weeks compared to those who took medication.
- Acupuncture: Researchers concluded that acupuncture has a definite effect in reducing chronic pain, such as back pain and headaches – more so than standard pain treatment.
- Infrared laser therapy like K Laser can be profoundly effective and should be considered as an alternative before any surgical procedure for pain relief.