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Posted on 08-07-2015

For the amount of work your neck does, it doesn't get enough credit. Not only does it support your head, but your neck also protects your spinal cord. It also stays flexible enough to give you a full range of motion, such as side-to-side movement.

And since your neck does so much, it's easy to injure. Whether you were in a recent car accident and experienced whiplash, strained your neck through overuse, or simply woke up with a neck ache, you know how inconvenient and uncomfortable neck pain can be.

No matter the cause behind your neck pain, you don't have to live with it. Instead, read below for five helpful tips to reduce your pain and restore your neck's full abilities.

1. Stretch

When you encounter ongoing neck pain from overuse, sleeping habits, or posture, certain stretches can offer relief. Neck stretches help your neck's elasticity, which can alleviate pain-causing stiffness and enhance your range of motion.

Remember, before you start a stretching or exercise regimen, consult your doctor or chiropractor. Don't perform general stretches if you've recently injured your neck in a car accident or while playing sports-instead, ask your chiropractor for stretch recommendations that won't aggravate your injury.

Seated Stretches

To perform these stretches, either sit cross-legged on the floor or sit straight in a chair with a back. Plant your feet firmly on the floor.

  • Put your right hand on the floor or chair beside your next knee. Place your left hand on top of your head and gently pull your neck towards your left shoulder. Switch sides.
  • Link your hands together, then place them on the back of your head. Tuck your chin, then gently use your hands to press your neck towards your chest.

Standing Stretches

  • Stand on a flat surface with your legs hip-width apart. Extend your hands behind you, then grasp your right wrist with your left hand. Use the left hand to gradually pull the right arm away from the body. Tilt your head towards your left shoulder. Switch sides.
  • Stand with your back flat against a wall. Move your chin towards your chest and move your neck towards the wall. Raise your arms but keep your elbows bent. Move your arms slowly down the wall, closer to your back, then back up again.

2. Apply Heat and Ice

If your neck feels particularly sore or if you recently had a neck injury, both heat and ice can help. Ice usually reduces swelling, while heat relaxes sore, aching muscles.

Most doctors recommend you apply an ice pack wrapped in a clean towel in the hours after an injury first occurs. Talk to your doctor or chiropractor for more specific recommendations.

After a busy, stressful day, you can also relax your sore neck as you take a hot bath or shower. If you dislike moist heat or don't have the time to relax in the bath, invest in a heat wrap for continuous, comfortable heat during the day.

3. Exercise

Certain exercise regimens strengthen your neck and improve your posture. For a routine that simultaneously stretches and strengthens your neck, try yoga. To enhance your posture overall, try core-strengthening exercises. These maneuvers help you stand up straighter, which prevents your neck from straining forward.

4. Invest in a New Pillow

If you frequently wake up with a throbbing neck, your pillow could be the culprit. When your pillow lays too flat or too high, it pushes your neck out of its natural position and twists it into an awkward, painful one.

Find a pillow that keeps your neck in a neutral position, no matter how you sleep. If you sleep on your back, make sure your pillow doesn't push your chin forward. If you sleep on your side, make sure your pillow comes to about ear height.

If you've struggled to find comfortable pillows in the past, search for orthopedic or cervical pillows, which should give your neck more support. You can also try feather pillows, which conform to your neck's shape without offering the resistance of foam pillows.

5. Visit a Chiropractor

Your chiropractor helps reduce neck pain and restore mobility through neck adjustments. After you visit the chiropractor, you should experience less pain and a better range of motion than before. You might need several visits to see improvement, especially if you've recently been injured.

Your chiropractor will likely ask you when you noticed your neck pain, how frequently and intensely it hurts, and what worsens the aches. He or she can discuss habits you can change to reduce everyday neck pain and make recommendations on neck specific stretches and exercises.

With these five tips in hand, you won't have to settle for neck pain. Instead, apply these steps to alleviate your pain and improve your quality of life. For more personalized advice, talk to your chiropractor about your specific needs.

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