Just about anything can cause neck pain — you may sleep on your neck in a funny way or spend too much time cradling the phone on your shoulder.
But neck pain is often caused by fitness activities. We’re talking about poor weight-lifting technique, such as turning your head to the side while doing a shoulder press, and poor upper-body exercise posture, such as letting your head droop forward when you walk. If you experience neck pain after a traumatic incident, such as getting beaned on the head with a soccer ball, check with your doctor immediately. Also consult a physician if you have constant or recurring neck pain.
Neck pain of the non-traumatic kind usually signals tightness in the muscles of your neck, upper back, and/or shoulders. When you press a finger into the area between your shoulder and your neck and there’s very little give or springiness, you have tight neck muscles.
One remedy: Gently stretch your neck muscles; if you feel tightness on the right side of your neck, tip your head toward your left shoulder and stretch your right arm downward. Gentle massage is also useful for freeing up knotty neck muscles. You can give yourself a massage, but somehow that isn’t as satisfying as enlisting a friend, significant other, or professional therapist.
Ice, usually an injury-friendly treatment, isn’t always the best choice for neck pain. If you’re stiff to begin with, applying ice may cause you to tense up even more. If your trouble is a stiff neck, moist heat in the form of a warm washcloth, shower massage, or whirlpool may be the way to go.