woman on a sofa holds her head in her hands
All photos: Karolina Grabowska

Headache got you hostage? Neck feel like a rusty hinge? Don't reach for another pill just yet! There are a bunch of simple, effective ways to soothe that ache and tension. From gentle muscle stretches to invigorating aromatherapy, these methods have your back (and head and neck!) covered. Get ready to kiss that ouch goodbye! For neck pain relief consult La Clinica PT your physical therapist can guide you through personalized treatment options for lasting comfort.

#1. Stretch It Out

Neck muscles can become tight and irritated from prolonged activities, such as sitting or standing for long periods. Eye strain from computer monitors that are too high or low can also lead to neck pain. Many people slouch while sitting or relaxing, and this can put extra pressure on the head and neck. Additionally, to past injuries, poor sleeping posture can also contribute to neck pain and stiffness. 

Physical therapy can include isometric and range-of-motion exercises that progressively stretch the neck muscles. Physiotherapists can also perform ultrasound treatment on the sore tissues to help ease and relax them. Another option is using a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) unit, which sends low-level electricity to disrupt the pain signals from the nervous system.

A steroid injection in the affected facet joint can also reduce inflammation and decrease pain, especially when taken soon after an episode of neck pain.

#2. Take a Hot Bath or Shower

The muscles that support neck posture and movement and attach to the vertebrae can become inflamed and tender when you have a tension headache. These are called the suboccipital muscles. Episodic tension headaches usually develop as a response to stress and ease once the stressful situation is over. Chronic tension headaches are a different story. They can become debilitating if not managed properly.

A hot bath or shower helps because the heat increases blood flow, which helps to soothe inflamed muscles. You can also use a heating pad or warm compress to help with pain relief. Just remember to wrap any cold or heat therapy in a towel or layer of clothing to prevent skin damage.

Having a stiff neck is not always serious but if it is accompanied by numbness or pain that travels down the arm or into the legs, you should see a doctor right away. Neck pain accompanied by severe headaches, loss of balance weakness or vision problems is also an emergency.

woman massages her neck from the back

#3. Get a Massage

Getting a massage may help ease neck muscles that contribute to muscle tension and headaches. Be sure to find a professional therapist who has experience working with these types of pain. You can also try a TENS unit to help block the pain signals from nerves that reach your brain.

It is important to rule out serious causes of neck pain, like a herniated disk or a spinal cord injury, before treating your symptoms. Your healthcare provider may perform a physical exam and ask questions about your past history of neck injuries. They will ask if the pain gets worse after certain activities, how long it lasts, and what makes it better or worse.

Visit to physical therapy waukegan il the practitioner may conduct a physical examination and inquire about your neck injury history.

#4. Try Deep Breathing

Neck pain and headaches are closely related; movement of the head in the wrong way can trigger pain in the neck. Neck pain can also lead to a tension-type headache, which can include feelings of tightness across the temples and forehead.

Learning to relax through deep breathing is important for relieving headaches caused by tense muscles. When in pain, you may breathe using only the top of your lungs which can contribute to a tension headache. Try placing your hand on your chest and another just below your ribcage to see if you can feel the big band of muscle (the diaphragm) move when you breathe in.

Adding a few minutes of this relaxation to your daily routine can help you stay calm and lessen headaches caused by neck pain. If neck pain persists or is accompanied by weakness, numbness, or fever, consult your doctor right away. Your doctor can recommend treatments such as a TENS unit or steroid injections to reduce swelling and relieve pain.

#5. Incorporate Aromatherapy 

Certain essential oils, like lavender and peppermint, have been shown to have pain-relieving properties. Lavender oil, extracted from the lavender plant, is known for its soothing and relaxing qualities. It has been widely used to alleviate stress, and anxiety, and promote a sense of calm. And peppermint oil is recognized for its invigorating and cooling properties.

Dilute a few drops of your chosen oil in a carrier oil and massage it onto your temples or forehead. You can also add a few drops to a diffuser for a calming effect.

Final Thoughts...

So there you have it! Five simple ways to turn that frown upside down (and loosen up that creaky neck). Remember, your body is a temple, treat it with kindness! These tips are just a starting point, explore what works best for you. Listen to your body, prioritize self-care, and banish head and neck pain for good!