Chronic neck and back issues are quite literally a pain. While failing to exercise and neglecting proper posture are the most obvious culprits of neck and back pain, if we dig a little deeper – research shows that it may be a sign you’re overly stressed and need to give your body some extra love. According to scientists at the CDC, low back and neck pain are “critical public health concerns” as they are often accompanied by both psychological stress and increased engagement in risky health behaviors. As a wellness professional, I’ve dedicated much of my life to providing chiropractic care as a non-invasive and pain-free alternative for my patients to achieve healthy results. Getting rid of this pain is no easy feat, but once you find and tend to the root of what ails you, you’re likely to see improvements in both your mental and physical health.
5 Strategies to Ease Your Pain
#1 See a Chiropractor
Chiropractors are specially trained to help improve neck and back pain. They specialize in the joint issues as well as the neuromuscular issues that arise from chronic neck/back pain and dysfunction. According to the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, the benefits of chiropractic treatment for neck pain outweigh the risks, have long-lasting effects, and pain is less likely to recur after treatment.
#2 Stretch it Out
At home, you can stretch your neck and back. Integrating both mind and body, yoga is a great way to decompress, both mentally and physically. If you are not sure which stretches or yoga poses to perform, ask your chiropractor; he or she will help you to avoid injury by advising which stretches are best for you. Researchers led by Dr. Karen J. Sherman at the University of Washington found that those suffering from chronic back pain got greater pain relief from both yoga class and conventional stretching programs when compared to reading self-help books. Additionally, the benefits were still able to be observed after several months!
Increased psychological stress has been associated with an increase in chronic neck pain. In one study, patients with chronic neck pain were put through an eight-week program of 90 minutes per week of either meditation or exercise. The results showed that those in the meditation group saw a significant decrease in pain when compared to the exercise group. Any amount of meditation is beneficial; you’ll be doing your body a favor whether you have 60 seconds or 20 minutes!
#4 Move a Little
Getting your blood moving is always a good option for both preventing and easing pain and inflammation. For added mindful benefits, do your workout outside. When comparing walking in a forest to walking in urban areas, one study found that walking in nature (aka forest-bathing) had a profound positive impact on not only blood pressure, but also levels of stress hormones.
#5 Sleep Well
Waking up with a kink in your neck is no way to start your day. Luckily, there are options to improve your sleeping technique. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re a side sleeper, try sleeping with your legs drawn slightly towards your chest and insert a pillow in between your legs; if you’re a back sleeper, sleep with a rolled-up towel or pillow underneath your knees to neutralize your lower back.
Dr. Melissa Wilke practices in Geneva, IL where she “gives you the tools, to love the body you live in.”