Neck pain is the most common musculoskeletal disorder in adults. It can be caused by a variety of things, such as trauma to the neck, poor posture, or repetitive strain on the neck. In this article, we will look at how osteopathy for neck pain can relieve your symptoms and we also provide a helpful osteopathic exercise to reduce tension in your neck.
The neck contains vertebrae between the skull and upper torso of the body and comprises cervical discs to help absorb shock between the bones. These bones, ligaments, and muscles help support your head and allow for a range of motion.
Having a robust and flexible neck allows you to perform essential day-to-day activities. Unlike other parts of your body, your neck never gets to take a break from supporting your head and protecting your nervous system. The neck is highly susceptible to trauma and is sensitive to stress and poor posture despite its importance. An injury brought about by bad posture, sport or whiplash from a car accident can cause inflammation, pain, and stiffness.
As a professional osteopath, I aim to diagnose any underlying issues and explain what you need to do to relieve any neck stiffness or pain. I take a holistic approach to medicine (Holistic medicine focuses on a person’s entire wellness and not just your illness or condition.) For instance, I will look at other parts of your body that might be contributing to your neck issues. These can be your back, shoulders, and even perhaps your jaw. I may also ask you questions about how you perform your job, whether or not you exercise, and your sleep habits to better understand what could be causing the stiffness or pain.
Spinal Lengthening Exercise To Relieve Neck Pain
After 40 years of experience as an osteopath, my number one go-to for anybody complaining of neck pain is spinal lengthening. (This can be done when the pain is caused by a traumatic injury but is the result of ageing, weight gain, and the kind of work the patient does)
Here is a video demonstrating how to do this, but quite simply, it involves pulling your ears upwards. You will see that this has an almost magical effect on all of your body and your posture, but specifically on the neck area as it releases tension and decongests it.
Why does this work? If you imagine a spring that’s been gripped between your finger and thumb, and you’re pressing your finger and thumb together, the pressure and the tension builds up in the spring. If you release your finger and thumb, there’s more space for the spring, and the tension is released.
By pulling your ears upwards, the neck is stretched, and the chronic muscle tension is released. This lengthening effect creates a bigger gap between each vertebrae, releasing the muscle tension. Spinal lengthening also works if you have nerve irritation in the neck, as this exercise will also make some space between the joints, decompress the disk and alleviate the nerve.
Treating The Underlying Causes Of Neck Pain with Osteopathy
Rather than just treating symptoms only, we educate you on things you can do to reduce your current symptoms and avoid similar issues in the future. We can also help you see how to apply this to your daily activities.
For example, if you’re a desk worker, we can assess how you sit, checking you are maintaining an upright posture. This also applies to playing sports or regularly running too. We can help you learn how to run in a better position, such as with your neck extended and leaning not from your chin but leaning slightly more forward from your chest. This way your running is optimized by gravity, giving you that little bit of extra assistance.
Osteopathy for neck pain starts with very gentle self-mobilization, so you, as the patient, will make small gradual movements of your neck. This treatment will help create some traction on the neck and increase the available range of movement.
If there is inflammation within the neck, you may also consider the benefits of using acupuncture treatment. This has been shown to reduce inflammation, alter the perception of pain, increase the circulation of fluids in the local tissue, and switch on anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic chemicals.
And finally, we would also recommend likely doing some hands-on treatment which looks like massage but is a little more focused specifically on neck pain.
Tips To Help Ease Neck Pain
Some other steps you can do yourself to help relieve a stiff or sore neck are:
● Apply a heat pack or heat-producing cream to the neck muscles to help them relax
● Taking a warm bath can help to relax the muscles
● Avoid doing anything strenuous or carrying heavy items
● Keep moving as sitting and not doing anything can allow the muscles in the neck to become tighter and further aggravate the pain.
While most of the time, the stiffness or pain will go away after a short time, there are occasions where it would be wise to see an osteopath and let us look at the cause of the irritation and come up with a suitable treatment for you. Contact us today for your free assessment at our Walsall and Sutton Coldfield Clinics.