The average adult head weighs 8 pounds, and this weight is supported entirely by the muscles in the neck and upper back. Its not surprising, then, that neck pain is one of the most common complaints. Many habits and activities that are a part of daily life put stress and strain on neck muscles, tendons and ligaments. Sitting too long in a car or at a desk, working on a computer, having poor posture or a bad sleeping position, toting unbalanced heavy loads and reacting to stress and tension all place a great demand on the neck structures. As a result, some muscles can atrophy, tendons can shorten and ligaments can lose their tensile strength. The neck muscles may then go into spasm, causing not only neck problems, but also headaches and radiating pain in the arms and shoulders. Strengthening exercises, proper posture and gentle stretching can prevent neck problems. However, when neck pain strikes, stretching and natural-healing methods that increase blood flow to the muscles can provide relief.
Rosemary oil for neck pain Applied externally, rosemary essential oil warms the neck muscles and enhances blood flow (vasodilation). In the palm of your hand, blend 5 drops of rosemary oil with a small amount of sweet almond, avocado or jojoba oil. Next, massage the mixture into your stiff or sore neck. Finally, wrap your neck in a warm scarf for a few hours to extend the healing effect.
What can you do A variety of natural healing techniques are effective in easing neck pain and tension, including heat applications, massage, stretching exercises and rest. In addition, regular exercise to strengthen neck muscles can help to prevent neck pain from developing in the first place. Swimming is a particularly good choice because it is a gentle strengthening exercise.
Heat increases blood flow Heat packs, massage, mud packs, a warm bath, sometime in a sauna or an arnica-essence wrap can alleviate neck pain. These methods warm the muscles and promote vasodilation. However, heat should not be applied when the injury is acute or in circumstances when the muscles might be inflamed.
Isometric exercises release tension To alleviate a neck spasm, clasp your head together behind your head and press your head firmly against your hands for 5 seconds; then relax the pressure. Next, bend your head forward and apply gentle pressure with your hands for 10 seconds. Do not force your head too far forward and stop if you feel any pain. Repeat this exercise five times or more, if needed.
Gentle stretches relax muscles Carefully bend your head to the right and hold for 10 secs as though you were trying to touch your shoulder with your ear. Gently roll your head forward and to the left and repeat the stretch. Next, shrug your shoulders, hold for a few seconds and then release.
Essential oils alleviate the pain Essential oils from camellia, lavender and juniper ease muscle pain while helping to relieve stress at the same time. Add 3 drops of each of these essences to a diffuser. Perform stretching exercises as you inhale the aroma.
Extra tip : The methanol in peppermint oil can provide relief for a sore neck. Blend 2 drops of peppermint oil with sweet almond oil and rub into the painful areas of your neck.
Moist heat Heat can be soothing to neck muscles in spasms, and moist heat deeply penetrates the muscles. Use a hydrocollator, a special compress that can be boiled or microwaved (available at pharmacies), or simply wrap a hot water bottle in a damp towel. Apply moist heat to the neck and leave in place for 15-20 mins.
A wrap and massage
- An arnica essence wrap
- 2 tbsp. tincture of arnica
- 2 cups water
- ½ cup rubbing alcohol
Soak a cotton cloth in the solution. Squeeze out the excess and put the cloth on your neck. Cover with a dry cloth and leave it on for half an hour. (Note: to determine whether you are allergic to arnica, first apply a small amount of the solution to the inside of one arm.)
A relaxing massage oil
- 1 oz. St. John’s wort oil
- 2 drops angelica oil
- 1 drop bay oil
- 2 drops lemon balm oil
- 7 drops sage oil
Before applying to skin, dilute the mix with a few drops of a base oil, such as jojoba or avocado. Use your fingertips to massage a small amount into your neck. Begin at the bottom and move up slowly. Afterward, keep your neck warm with a scarf.
When on the phone Do not cradle the receiver between your shoulder and ear. Consider using hands free headset
When sleeping Do not sleep on your stomachs; instead, lie on your side with your knees bent.
When riding in a car Place a pillow behind your neck to provide support.