ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to relieve neck pain in 5 easy steps

Updated on July 12, 2013

5 steps to relieve your neck pain and headaches

1) Continue with your normal daily activities and exercise: It is important for us as humans to move our bodies. Movement and exercise help us heal, however forcing or pushing through sharp or shooting pain is not a healing experience and is not necessary for improvements in strength or in this case, relieving pain. Immobilization and lack of movement can make the problem worse. Staying in bed will only de-condition your body and muscles, however if you have a fracture then it is necessary to be immobilized for some time so the fracture can heal. If you have neck pain you should continue with your normal daily activities and exercise, modifying or backing off from any activity that causes sharp or shooting pain.

Neck Pain, Headache & Migraine Relief Exercises and Massage

2) Move your neck safely: It is important to teach your body that movement is not dangerous or will injure you. Many times a tight, stiff, or painful muscle will be this way to brace the body against movement to protect it on a subconscious level. When no danger is present or you are not currently being injured this often does not let go until till we "tell" it to ease up or "show" our body that it can move again in a certain direction without injury.

To begin moving your neck safely, sit and begin to turn your head side to side very slowly, staying within your pain free, or even uncomfortable, range of motion. Do not push past sharp or shooting pain. If it hurts too much to do this sitting in a chair, lay down on your back and try it with out gravity acting on your head. You can also give a gentle touch to your chin or forehead to help your neck turn.Chin tucks are also a great exercise to help relive neck pain and retrain the muscles of your neck. This exercise helps to activate the deep neck flexors, which through reciprocal inhibition help "turn off" the muscles in the back of your neck. This is the same mechanism that happens when you use your biceps of your arm to lift something with your hand. This contraction sends a signal to your triceps (the opposing muscle) to relax and lengthen. The video to the right demonstrates how to do both of these exercises as well as the massage techniques.

3) Strengthen your deep neck flexors:  Chin tucks are also a great exercise to help relive neck pain and retrain the muscles of your neck. This exercise helps to activate the deep neck flexors, which through reciprocal inhibition help "turn off" the muscles in the back of your neck. This is the same mechanism that happens when you use your biceps of your arm to lift something with your hand. This contraction sends a signal to your triceps (the opposing muscle) to relax and lengthen. The video to the right demonstrates how to do both of these exercises as well as the massage techniques.

Thoracic Extension Exercises

5) See a physical therapist: If you are unsure of what you are doing, if all of these exercises cause sharp shooting pain and you have significant numbness or tingling, or you feel like what is going on with your body is not just neck pain, please seek the advice of a local physical therapist. In most states you can see a physical therapist directly without waiting to see your primary care physician or orthopedic surgeon first. A physical therapist will be able to determine the best, most conservative and cost effective solution for your problem. They will also know if your problem is more complicated and you do need an evaluation by a physician or surgeon. Physical therapy can help you if you have neck pain, headaches, migraines, numbness and tingling in your hands, arms or face. There are no dangerous side effects to physical therapy, unlike with medications and surgery.

4) Release the muscles that are tight: You can start with a few minutes of self-massage. Sit or lay down and rub your neck, right where it hurts. You may feel a very tight or tender area, treat it nice and be gentle. You can use your fingers to rub the areas that hurt. Start with a few circles in each direction. Then strum back and forth across the fiber or knots in the muscles. Finally, find the most tender spot, press gently until your body begins to resist, and hold this for 30 seconds or up to 3 minutes. Next, find the hollow area at the base of your skull. Many small, strong and tight muscles are here and massaging this area should feel good and may refer pain in the pattern of your headaches. Don't force anything, just press gently. You may also benefit from using a self-massage tool like a Theracane, Back Knobber, a Cranio Cradle or Occipivot.

Other areas that are important to address when you have neck pain are your mid back (thoracic area) and the front of your shoulders (pectorals). The mid back is often stiff, tight and curved forward helping stick your head out past the center of your body. This creates more pressure and tension on the muscles holding your neck up. Think of your head like a bowling ball and the further forward it is, your neck muscles are required to pull much harder, for every 1/2 inch forward, it puts about an extra 10 pounds of pressure on the muscles in your neck.

This forward head posture often starts at the pelvis, but you can begin to work on it by releasing your pectorals or pecs, as well as your mid thoracic spine or mid back. The picture and description below show how to release your pecs with a ball.

You should also try the thoracic (mid spine) extension exercises in the video to the right. After working through these you can also stay there and find a really deep release by staying on the towel or yoga mat for an extended period of time, relaxing into the floor. This passive stretch will open the front of your neck and shoulders while gently moving or mobilizing your mid back. This should feel good. Stay here, with your palms facing the ceiling, at least 3 minutes and up to 10. Be sure to roll on your side before getting up. Do not sit straight up, it will not injure you, but puts a lot of pressure, stress and strain on the muscles and structures of your neck and back.

MFR with a Ball for your pectorals

Myofascial Release with a Ball

Lay on the ground, a mat, blanket or your bed. Each surface will provide a different level of resistance or pressure.

For this technique you can use a tennis ball, though I prefer a softer and more pliable ball which you should be able to find at a grocery store, Target, Wallmart, etc. You can use a dryer ball or any rubber or inflatable ball about the size of a baseball or softball.

Place a ball under your body, below your collar bone, in the muscle of your chest. Move your arm up and down along the floor, like a face down snow angel, and find the position that feels the tightest. “Crawl” your fingers away from you to lengthen your arm and shoulder, then "let go" and allow your arm and shoulder to relax and sink into the ball. Breathe deep and allow yourself to release, relax and unwind.

You can have your head to either side, or face down with your forehead on a towel, pillow or your other hand/arm.

These techniques are gentle, sustained and relaxing. You should allow yourself to move and adjust as you feel your body letting go, however, moving back and forth over the tender area is not the goal of this self-treatment technique.

These areas may feel tight, tender, or like “the spot” and the techniques should feel good.

Spend 3 to 5 minutes in each area to allow the fascia to release.

Slowly roll on your side to reposition or to stand up.

To learn more self treatment techniques using Myofascial Release and Myofascial Stretching, you can order the Myofascial Stretching Book which I recommend to all of my patients.

Self Myofascial Release Exercises with an Inflatable Ball

Office Ergonomics

Dr. Aaron LeBauer is a physical therapist in Greensboro, NC. Please feel free to ask any questions directly through his hubpages profile or in the comment section below.

Preventing Neck Pain and Headaches

Many times it is the things we do not notice and that we do all day long repetitively that sets us up for injury. Our modern world works against us, especially for people who sit in the same place all day long. Movement is what keeps us going and sitting still in an office chair puts our bodies in a place that we were not built for.

Your computer or workstation may be causing or contributing to your neck pain, wrist pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, hip pain, sciatica, headaches or migraines. The video to the right shows how to set up your workstation. If you are still not sure that you have made the right changes ask if your company has an ergonomic specialist who can perform a workstation or ergonomic assessment for you.

Your company may also buy or reimburse you for a new chair or other items to help you achieve the best position and comfort. A happy and healthy employee (or boss) is a productive one. If you do not have this option, a physical therapist will be able to help you determine the best position and desk set up for you.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Arc4life profile image


      4 years ago from Florida

      Great article on how to reduce neck pain safely and naturally. Makes sense.

    • Dr. Aaron LeBauer profile imageAUTHOR

      Aaron LeBauer 

      6 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      Thanks erorantes, you are certainly welcome.

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 

      6 years ago from Miami Florida

      Hello Dr. Aaron . Thanks for the article on How to relieve neck pain 5 easy steps.

    • Dr. Aaron LeBauer profile imageAUTHOR

      Aaron LeBauer 

      6 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      Mark, you're welcome

      Rogene, thanks for your feedback.

    • profile image

      Rogene Robbins 

      6 years ago

      Thank you. I found the section on prevention especially helpful.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      My neck feels great now. Thanks Dr.

    • Dr. Aaron LeBauer profile imageAUTHOR

      Aaron LeBauer 

      7 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      @baba, read the article. if it doesn't help or make sense, get an appointment with a physical therapist in your town.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      have some pain in my upper part of the kneck and muscle for over what advice can you give me to help me start ?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good stuff..thanks.

    • YadiraE profile image


      8 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Great Hub! Very useful!!

    • carol3san profile image

      Carolyn Sands 

      8 years ago from Hollywood Florida

      Great hub! Thanks for the info....very informative.

    • Dr. Aaron LeBauer profile imageAUTHOR

      Aaron LeBauer 

      8 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      Thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you found this information helpful.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much! Voted up, useful, and am book marking it.

    • CASE1WORKER profile image


      8 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

      A lot of very sensible advice. I notice that you advise not working through any sharp pain. I imagine that most of us with back and neck pain would agree with you.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)