The average adult head weighs about 3kg, and this weight is supported by the muscles in the neck and upper back. Any abnormalities, inflammation, or injury can cause neck pain or stiffness. It is not surprising, then that neck pain is one of the most common complaints.
Sometimes, neck pain is caused by injury from a fall, accidents, infections, abscesses. Also, many habits and activities that are a part of daily 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 (combined with age-related wear and tear); toting unbalanced heavy weights, jerking your neck during exercise; reacting to stress, tension and overuse, all place a great demand on the neck structures. And as a result, some muscles can degenerate/waste away, tendons can shorten and ligaments can lose their tensile strength. The neck muscles may then go into spams, causing not only neck problems, but also headaches and radiating pain in the arms and shoulders and needless to add, decreased ability to move the head.
Most of the time, neck pain can be relieved within a few days. But in some cases, neck pain can indicate serious injury or illness and require a physician’s care. If you have neck pain that continues for more than a week, is severe, or is accompanied by other symptoms, please seek expert’s attention immediately.
However, there have been different herbal treatments that have proven effective to address the issue of neck pain. They can be taken in form of pills, inhaled as aromatherapy, brewed and taken as a tea, applied on the skin as cream or ointment, added to bathwater etc.
The following herbal treatments may ease your neck pain:
Spicy-Blend: cooking with spices can alleviate symptoms accompanied with neck pain. Though sounds too simple to be true, a combination of oregano, rosemary and thyme are herbs you should be sprinkling liberally onto your food, as they are replete with analgesic, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory compounds. Oregano alone, is said to contain about 32 anti-inflammatories! The good thing is that these spices are readily available in grocery stores.
Mix and match these garden herbs into a pain-relieving tea:Pour a cup of freshly boiled water over a teaspoon of the dried herbs, steep 5 to 15 minutes and strain. Take 2-3 X daily.
Gingerroot has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate mild pain from fibromyalgia. You can take 1 to 4 grams powdered ginger daily, divided into two to four doses. Or make tea from 1 teaspoon chopped fresh root simmered in a cup of water for about 15 minutes.
Green tea is great for stiff muscles on the neck. It has many muscle-relaxing compounds. Infuse a tea bag for 10 minutes, take 3 X daily.
Mint tea the menthol in peppermint relaxes the muscles. Its antispasmodic and analgesic effects also can help relieve headaches associated with neck pain, when applied to the forehead or temple. Dilute about 3 drops of essential oil in 1 tablespoon of carrier oil.
Bromelain: a type of enzyme extracted from pineapple stems, bromelain reduces levels of prostaglandins, which aoil. hormones that induce inflammation. Bromelain may benefit people with neck pain and conditions associated with musculoskeletal tension as well as those suffering trauma-related inflammation. What’s more, the enzyme may promote healing in muscles and connective tissues. As a dietary supplement, take 500 mg daily.
Lavender- the fragrant flowers of this herb has traditionally been used in form of tea or inhalation for relaxation. Nowadays lavender is popularly is used as massage oils and aromatherapy in the treatment of neck and low back pain. Lavender is particularly effective against neck pain if used in conjunction with massage therapy.
Menthol and camphor are common ingredients in many analgesic muscle pain balms. They can be used in their distilled oil or cream form. They help to increase blood circulation in the affected area when rubbed on the skin. This increased blood circulation, in turn, produces a cool and warm sensation that relaxes the skin. Its effect is known to last for several hours.
Moist heat: Heat can be soothing to neck muscles in spasm and moist heat deeply penetrates the muscles. Wrap a hot-water bottle in a damp towel. Then apply moist heat to the neck and leave in place for 15-20 minutes.
A wrap and massage- Blend 2 tbsp tincture of clove oil, 2 cups water and 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 clove, first apply a small amount of the solution to the inside of one arm.
Also, picking the right pillow is paramount – finding the right pillow can improve the quality of your sleep and prevent or reduce neck pain, according to studies on pillow use. The goal is to find a pillow that keeps your neck in a neutral position; gives you good support as well as a good night’s sleep. Here are some choices worth a test drive: orthopedic, feather, cervical and water-filled pillows. You might want to do some shopping at your local bedding stores!
Gentle stretches relax muscles-carefully bend your head to the right and hold for about 10 seconds 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.
When on the phone, do not cradle the receiver between your shoulder and ear. Consider using a hands-free headset.
When sleeping, do not sleep on your stomach; instead, lie on your side with your knees bent.
When riding in a car, place a pillow behind your neck to provide support.
Use good posture. When standing and sitting, be sure your shoulders are in a straight line over your hips and your ears are directly over your shoulders.
Take frequent breaks. If you travel long distances or work long hours at your computer, get up, move around and stretch your neck and shoulders.