Neck Archive


6 ways to ease neck pain

Stress, poor sleep, and physical ailments over time can lead to a pain in the neck

Image: Wavebreakmedia | Getty Images

Everyday life isn't kind to the neck. You may be all too familiar with that crick you get when you cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear, or the strain you feel after working at your computer.

Neck pain rarely starts overnight. It usually evolves over time. And it may be spurred by arthritis or degenerative disc disease, and accentuated by poor posture, declining muscle strength, stress, and even a lack of sleep, said Dr. Zacharia Isaac, medical director of the Comprehensive Spine Care Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital and director of interventional physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.

Neck pain: Core exercises can help

Neck aches are often the result of wear and tear, poor posture, and weak core muscles.

Image: Thinkstock

Better support for your spine is key in avoiding neck ache.

Don’t let neck pain slow you down

If neck pain is keeping you from doing the things you enjoy, don't worry — there are ways to get you back to your normal routine. The ultimate goals of neck pain treatment are to relieve pain, restore function, and reduce the risk of re-injury.

A physical therapy program that emphasizes strength and stretching exercises, combined as needed with medication and relaxation therapies, often relieves neck pain over the long term. But when neck pain first strikes, here's what you can do:

Neck pain: Symptoms, causes, & how to relieve it

The cause of most neck pain is strained or sprained muscles, ligaments, and tendons. First-line therapy is rest, ice, heat, pain relievers, and possibly limited use of a neck collar.

Avoiding a pain in the neck

This common affliction can limit your daily activities if you don't take steps to prevent it.

Everyday life isn't kind to our necks. You know that crick you get when you cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear? Or the strain you feel when you crane your neck to see your computer monitor?

Strength training relieves chronic neck pain

ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. 

In the journals

Most of us are troubled by neck pain at some point in our lives. The most common culprit is overuse or misuse of muscles and ligaments. Today's computer-dominated workplace can be especially tough on necks, because so many of us sit for long periods with shoulders slumped and heads extended toward monitors.

In a slump? Fix your posture

Posture can worsen with age and cause back, neck, and shoulder pain. Adopting corrective lifestyle habits can help you stand up straighter.

Most people are familiar with the telltale look of aging — the slouching posture that makes men look small and feeble. Age can wear down the discs in your spine, which causes them to compress. "This is one reason why men lose height as they get older," says Dr. David Binder of the Orthopaedic Spine Center at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

Still, most changes in posture are a result of bad habits, such as sitting hunched over and not standing correctly. "Over time, these habits can create muscle weakness and imbalances that trigger spasms and place stress on your neck, low back, and shoulders," says Dr. Binder.

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