Neck pain is an exceedingly common problem that the majority of people will experience at some point in their lives. While the causes of neck pain vary, one of the most effective ways to find relief is simply to get adequate rest. Rest allows the strained muscles and inflamed tissues in the neck to fully heal and recover.
Why Rest is Critical for Neck Pain
When we overuse our neck muscles, such as from poor posture or sleeping in odd positions, we cause small tears and inflammation in the muscle fibers, tendons, and surrounding tissues. Our bodies are designed to repair this damage during periods of rest, but if the neck muscles never get a break, the tears and inflammation build up, leading to chronic pain. Rest gives the body the downtime it vitally needs to rebuild strained tissues and restore proper alignment and function.
Sleep is especially important, as this is when our muscles fully relax and recover. Strive for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and aim to sleep on your back or side to keep your neck straight. Supportive pillows can also help maintain the natural curve of the neck during sleep.
Taking Regular Breaks
If you have a desk job or are prone to hunching over electronic devices, be sure to take frequent, short breaks to get up, walk around, and stretch. Every 30 minutes is ideal. Simple neck rolls, extensions, and side bends help relieve tension. Set a timer if needed. Avoid angling your neck down for prolonged periods.
Seeking Professional Assistance
For moderate to severe neck pain, it’s wise to consult a doctor. They can determine if the pain is mechanical from muscle or joint issues, or if there is an underlying condition present. Pinched nerves, herniated discs, arthritis, whiplash, and other issues often require medication, physical therapy, massage, or additional treatments.
Physical therapists can instruct you on beneficial stretches and exercises to relieve neck tightness. Methods like ultrasound, heat, ice, and electrical stimulation may also be used. Massage therapy can relax tense neck muscles and improve circulation.
When to Rest Completely
Certain neck injuries require avoiding repetitive neck motions and heavy lifting until the pain and inflammation subside. Acute trauma in particular necessitates an initial period of complete neck rest to allow damaged tissues to heal. Your doctor may suggest wearing a soft cervical collar to immobilize the neck in these instances.
Be sure to get complete rest when you have:
- Sudden, severe neck pain
- Radiating pain into the shoulders or arms
- Muscle spasms in the neck
- Neck pain after a recent injury or trauma
- Headache or dizziness along with neck pain
Listen to Your Body
When managing neck discomfort, let your symptoms dictate your activity level. Sharp pain after certain movements means it’s time to stop and rest. While staying active promotes blood flow, be sure to incorporate ample rest periods where you avoid placing excess demands on your injured neck.
Try alternating gentle stretches, ice packs, and heat throughout the day during flare ups to relieve inflammation and pain. Go for short, leisurely walks to get blood flowing, but skip anything strenuous until your pain starts improving. Get massages to address lingering muscle tightness.
Above all, get plenty of quality sleep and consider brief daytime rests. Napping allows tired muscles the chance to regenerate and heal. Listen to what your neck is telling you. When it needs rest, give it time to fully recover before resuming normal activity. With adequate rest, neck pain generally fades, enabling you to return to your daily routine.