Upper neck pain can be debilitating and scary, but most often is related to poor posture. As such, upper neck ache relief typically relies on relaxing muscles that have been overtaxed when standing, moving, or sitting in an awkward position for a long period of time.
When we adopt an unusual or undesirable posture the muscles in the neck may tense up in an attempt to stabilize the cervical spine. This can limit movement and lead to muscle fatigue, spasm, cramps, and pain that extends from the upper neck down through the shoulders and back. In some cases, upper neck pain can also cause tension headaches and sleep difficulties. And, as we have seen in earlier blog posts, a lack of sleep can make us more susceptible to pain.
Upper neck ache relief can sometimes be achieved simply by getting a good night’s sleep. This is because our muscles relax when we sleep, and sleep increases the release of growth hormone which helps the body to repair and rebuild damaged muscles. Learning to relax and get restorative sleep is often the best way to relieve upper neck ache.
What causes upper neck ache?
Pain in the upper cervical spine can be a result of injury while playing sports or while lifting something heavy or awkward. It is also common in people working in construction. This is especially true for anyone who has to perform a task overhead in a cramped space.
Text neck is another cause of upper neck ache and results from staring down at a smartphone. Many of us unconsciously hold our breath while texting, which deprives the muscles of oxygen. This increases our risk of muscle fatigue and neck ache. Try staring at a smartphone posture app instead!
Carrying excess body weight and smoking both increase the likelihood of neck ache. This is because increased body weight adds pressure to the spine while smoking impairs circulation and the oxygenation of muscle tissue. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight and quitting smoking can both help prevent neck pain. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits also makes it more likely that other strategies for upper neck ache relief will succeed.
Upper neck ache relief strategies
Other options for upper neck ache relief include:
- Using a cold compress to soothe inflammation in the neck
- Using a warm compress to help relax muscles
- Taking a warm bath with lavender oil to help your muscles relax
- Trying flotation therapy for full body relaxation
- Having a massage from a qualified practitioner
- Using a home-based shiatsu massage device designed for the upper neck
- Using over-the-counter pain relieving drugs to reduce inflammation and pain and allow you to sleep
- Neck stretches (after initial rest) to help loosen muscles and clear any lactic acid build-up.
If you have neck pain after an injury, talk to your physician to rule out serious spinal damage. The same goes for anyone experiencing intense neck pain and/or altered sensation in the upper limbs or below the site of injury. In most cases, letting the neck muscles rest and relax is enough for upper neck ache relief. And, of course, avoiding strain through improper posture helps prevent future upper neck pain.
If these strategies for upper neck ache relief prove ineffective and pain persists for more than two weeks, see your physician.