There are things you can do to combat neck pain. One is to practice proper posture. Set up reminders at your computer station or on your mobile device to keep your head aligned with your spine and your shoulders low and loose.
It’s also important to deal with any muscle knots that may have formed over time. Chronic tension can cause knots called trigger points that involve not only muscle tissue, but the connective tissue surrounding muscles called myofascia as well. These knots require deep, sustained pressure to become relaxed. A technique called self-myofascial release, or myofascial release obtained through a trained practitioner, are relevant forms of treatment here.
Recently, a small study out of Denmark suggests that, surprisingly, resistance training of the neck and shoulders can actually help relieve muscle tension, a result that is a bit counterintuitive given that resistance exercise purposely invokes muscle tension. The study involved individuals with chronic neck and shoulder pain without a traumatic injury as the source.
Fourteen participants were instructed to conduct one exercise, called shoulder abductions or lateral raises, for two minutes a day for 10 weeks. The control group, also with 14 participants, received emails with health information. The researchers measured a number of outcomes, including pain scores, muscle strength and muscle relaxation patterns.
After 10 weeks of training, the group that performed resistance exercise for two minutes a day saw dramatic treatment results. Their pain intensity scores decreased by 40%. Perhaps most surprisingly, the researchers found that, overall, participants who exercised experienced an increase in muscle relaxation pattern, suggesting that neck muscle tension was successfully combated by exercise. The control group had no improvements from baseline.
For more on the above study, see www.hindawi.com.
For video instructions on doing lateral raises, see www.youtube.com. Study participants used an exercise band for resistance; the instructor in the video uses dumbbells.
Chronic neck pain often has several causes, from poor posture to trigger points. One exercise won’t likely be enough to remedy it, but the study suggests that it’s certainly worth spending two minutes a day on.