Neck injuries can occur in many different accidents, including motor vehicle collisions and falls. Neck pain after an accident can come from muscle strains, tendon injuries, and whiplash. A sore neck can make it difficult to complete daily tasks. Some patients may experience acute neck pain – sharp pain that only lasts a few days – while others may suffer chronic or long-term neck pain. If you have neck pain from an accident, injury, or simply from sleeping the wrong way, use a few at-home techniques to facilitate healing. This list was compiled by Justin Hill, a San Antonio car accident lawyer specializing in whiplash injuries.
Tackle Pain Relief
Pain from a neck injury can interfere with your enjoyment of life. You may not be able to move without feeling minor to severe pain in the neck, shoulders and upper arms. While you heal, take steps to alleviate the pain.
- Take a mild over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, if necessary. Always talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medication, especially if you are taking other medications.
- Use the ice then heat rule to help with local pain from muscle strain. Apply an ice pack to your neck for the first two days after your accident to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Then, switch to a heating pad to increase blood flow. Heat will relax the muscles in your neck and help prevent muscle spasms.
- Try companion remedies to further reduce pain, such as Icy Hot muscle rub, arnica gel or Tiger Balm. These balms can help you relax sore muscles and manage pain while your neck injury heals.
- Take it easy while you heal – take time away from activities that could aggravate the injury, such as sports and major exercise. Do not stop moving, however; studies show that light neck stretches and exercises are more effective at relieving muscle and joint pain than no movement at all.
Once you have a handle on general pain management, engage in simple stretches and exercises to alleviate neck soreness and stiffness.
Simple Neck Tilt
One of the easiest neck exercises for pain is the neck tilt. This can be done from a standing or sitting position, but it is best while sitting.
- With a neutral spine, tilt your head down until your chin touches your chest, or as far as you can go without feeling pain.
- Hold your head in the downward position for five seconds.
- Return to the first position and repeat the tilt four more times.
You can also try the side-to-side head tilt.
- Start in the same neutral position while sitting.
- Tilt your head toward one shoulder, leading with the ear, and hold for five seconds.
- Return to the neutral position.
- Tilt your head toward your other shoulder for five seconds.
- Repeat the entire set for a total of five times on each side.
Forward and Backward Tilt
If the simple neck tilt feels good, try the deeper forward and backward tilt. You can do this sitting or standing.
- Begin in a neutral position, with your head squarely above your shoulders and your back straight.
- Moving slowly, lower your chin to your chest and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Slowly return to neutral position.
- Tilt your chin up toward the ceiling, bringing the top of the skull toward your shoulder blades. Hold for 10 seconds before returning to the start position.
- Repeat several times.
The shoulder roll can help relieve pain and stiffness in the shoulders and sides of the neck specifically. Do this exercise standing up.
- With your arms dangling at your sides, raise your shoulders straight up.
- Move the shoulders in a circle going forward.
- Make six circles and return to the neutral start position.
- Roll your shoulders backward for six more circles.
Butterfly Pose Neck Rolls
Sit on the floor for this exercise. You can sit on a folded blanket or cushion if it makes you more comfortable.
- Bend both knees to bring the bottoms of your feet together as close to your pelvis as you can (butterfly position).
- Interlace your fingers and slide them beneath your feet, creating leverage for you to lengthen your spine by straightening your arms and pulling against your feet.
- Slowly roll your head and neck to one side, then the other. Only go from side to side; do not roll your neck in a full circle. The neck is not a ball-and-socket joint.
- Take deep breaths in and out to encourage the muscles in your neck to fully relax. Repeat as necessary to relieve pain and stiffness.
You should feel this stretch in the tendons on either side of the neck, where you would feel it in a neck massage.
Talk to Your Doctor
You can manage pain, alleviate stiffness and help yourself heal from a neck injury at home with the right exercise regimen. Always ask your doctor before engaging in any neck exercises, stretches or treatments. Do not exercise if your neck pain is severe or if you experience weakness in your arms or hands. Talk to your doctor right away if you notice severe pain or weakness during any of these exercises.