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Treat Chronic Neck Pain without NSAIDs
by Jaime A. Heidel
(The Best Years in Life) Millions of people struggle with chronic neck pain (cervicalgia). Are you one of them? If so, you may use NSAID pain relievers to treat it. While these over-the-counter drugs provide quick relief, they can damage your intestines and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Chronic neck pain can be caused by stress, injury, poor posture, herniated disc, or degenerative disc disease. The methods outlined below can help reduce your neck pain safely and naturally.
Note: If you have or have ever had a serious neck injury, consult with an osteopathic physician before using these techniques and remedies.
Certain neck exercises are geared toward releasing pent-up tension while others are designed to strengthen your neck and back to avoid repeated injury.
1. Standing Child's Pose
This yoga pose is a great way to relieve tension in your upper back and neck. Stand with your feet together, knees slightly bent, and gently bend forward until your head and arms dangle limply above the floor. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute, then slowly come back up to a standing position.
Sit on the edge of a stationary chair and carefully bring your chin toward your chest. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds, then slowly bring your head up so you're looking at the ceiling. Hold for another 5-10 seconds. Be careful not to tilt your head to either side while doing this.
3. Assisted Forward Neck Stretch
Sit on the edge of a stationary chair, reach behind you with both hands, and lace your fingers behind your head. Gently pull your chin down toward your chest until you feel a good stretch in the back of your neck. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds before slowly coming back up. Repeat several times each day.
4. The Neck Lift
Lie down on your side on the bed or a yoga mat. Support your head and neck by bending your arm and allowing your head to rest in the crook of your elbow (your ear should be touching your wrist). Carefully lift your head until your neck is as straight as it would be if you were sitting or standing upright. Do not try to look up or down. One ear should be pointed toward the ceiling, the other toward your bent arm. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds before gently lowering your head back down. Do this five times on each side.
5. The Bed Stretch
Lie on your stomach with your head and arms dangling off the bed. Using your core and back muscles, slowly lift your head upward, so the top-most part of your chest rises slightly off the bed. Your head should go a little past horizontal. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds before lowering back down. Repeat five times.
Natural Pain Relievers
Unlike NSAID pain relievers, natural pain relievers help treat cervicalgia without the potentially-dangerous side effects.
This herb reduces pain by inhibiting an enzyme that triggers the biosynthesis of pro-inflammatory chemicals called leukotrienes. In research studies, it has also been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Serrapeptase is an enzyme that has been shown to block the chemicals that cause inflammation while dissolving dead tissue (such as scar tissue) without damaging live tissue. It also encourages the drainage of mucus from damaged and inflamed areas of the body.
3. Topical Capsaicin
A topical capsaicin cream reduces neck pain by temporarily desensitizing nerve receptors called C-fibers, which trigger pain response. Capsaicin is the active component of hot chili peppers.
Arnica is a homeopathic remedy derived from a European flower, and it has been shown to ease pain and inflammation as well as diminish swelling and bruising. It can be taken sublingually (under the tongue) or used in gel form.
Bromelain is a digestive enzyme derived from pineapple stems. Research has shown that it eases pain by decreasing the lipid compounds (prostaglandins) that induce inflammation. Bromelain has proven successful in the treatment of both acute and chronic pain.
Oftentimes, chronic neck pain is caused by stress and constant muscle tension. According to a study published in the Journal of Pain, 89 patients with chronic neck pain were randomized into meditation and exercise groups. After the eight-week study, the meditation group experienced a significant decrease in pain compared to the exercise group.
Meditation has no religious affiliations or spiritual obligations. It is simply a way to focus your mind, calm your parasympathetic nervous system, and improve your overall sense of well-being. Sitting quietly for 20 minutes each day and just focusing on your breathing can be enough to do the trick.
With these exercises and remedies, you'll do more than just suppress symptoms, you'll help your body experience deep and lasting healing.
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