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Waking Up With Neck Pain No Longer Has to be a Pain in Your Neck

If you wake up with neck pain, it puts a damper on your day. Every time you turn your head, you feel it. If you look up or down, you feel it. You notice it while typing, talking, driving, and the list goes on. Having a crick in your neck is incredibly annoying, not to mention painful.

Typically, within a day or two things will feel better. What if you didn’t have to wait a day or two? What if you could feel better now?

You can. And, we’re going to show you how.

Mobilization for Decreased Neck Pain

When you wake up with a crick in your neck, it means something that is supposed to move is not moving. To fix this, we get things moving. There’s two main structures in the neck that can get tight – muscles and joints.

To improve muscle mobility, we suggest using a lacrosse ball on the muscles on the top of your shoulders, back of your neck, and sides of your neck. You can learn more about how to use a lacrosse ball here. We suggest getting one, but a tennis ball or softball can work in a pinch.

When we’re attempting to improve joint mobility, we often use a band or strap. In this case, you’ll want to find a non-stretchy, skinny band. If you have a dog leash at home, that will work just fine. Otherwise, we often suggest a pillowcase that is rolled up hot-dog style.

The easiest way to describe this technique is with a video, so take a look at the video below for an explanation of how to use the strap to mobilize your neck.

Light Movement to Decrease Neck Pain

Regardless of the location or type of pain you have, one of the best ways to get rid of pain is to do some light movement. This can mean a couple different things –

  • Moving only in pain-free areas
  • Moving slightly into discomfort
  • Moving through discomfort, stopping before discomfort increases beyond mild, then moving back out of it

All of these strategies are good ways to keep moving without driving discomfort up. The reason we want to stay moving is because that increases blood flow to the painful area.

Blood flow assists with healing, so the more blood you bring into the area, the better things feel. There are exceptions to this as some nerve injuries and major injuries don’t fit these guidelines. The majority of the time, however, people don’t move enough when they are injured. This creates new problems and prolongs how long the discomfort stays around. No one wants that!

If you need a suggestion of what light movement is best at the neck, try chin tucks. It’s our favorite go-to exercise to decrease neck pain.

Getting Your Heart Rate Up to Decrease Neck Pain

While light movement creates a local pump to bring blood to the neck, a full body pump, like your heart, can also do the same thing. One of the most effective – and underutilized – ways to decrease any sort of pain is to do interval training. The key here is finding a way to get your heart rate up without exacerbating your current discomfort.

Our favorite option to do this is the assault bike. You can use only arms, only legs, two legs and one arm, one leg and two arms, one arm, one leg, and so on. For neck pain, we suggest just using legs. A lot of shoulder muscles attach in the neck and overlap with neck muscles, so aggressively moving the arms can worsen neck pain.

neck pain

We use the assault bike a lot, especially with clients who come in with neck pain that goes down their arm, also known as radiculopathy. After we do hands-on treatment on their neck, we bring them to the assault bike. We start with a three to five minute gentle warm-up. We follow it with 10 sets of a :15 sprint followed by a :45 gentle spin. We end it with another three to five minute cooldown at a comfortable pace. All these numbers will vary based on how the person is tolerating the exercise.

Exercise is Medicine

When they get off the bike, we’ve yet to see someone who hasn’t had a decrease in neck pain. Why is that? Beyond increasing blood flow, we tap into the body’s ability to make natural painkillers when we perform exercise. Incredible, right?

Exercise, especially high intensity exercise is a natural painkiller. It seems simple, but when it comes to exercising while you have pain, it can be tricky. To help understand what exercise is okay and what is a bit too much, we recommend checking out this blog post, called Training While Injured

Wrapping Up Neck Pain

If you wake up and experience neck pain, here’s the short list of what you should do –

  1. Mobilize your joints (use a strap as shown) and muscles (use a lacrosse ball)
  2. Do some light movement (chin tucks)
  3. Keep exercising and get your heart rate up!
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