One of the problems and injuries I often see in the athletic training clinic is a sore neck. Whether it’s a lacrosse player having sustained a big hit the previous day, or, more commonly, an athlete sleeping incorrectly, knowing how to relieve neck pain is useful to anyone. Below, I provide you with a three-step process to speed up recovery from a sore neck.
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Step 1: Apply Heat
Using a heating pad at home or a moist hot pack from your athletic training clinic is an easy way to get instant relief. Improving blood flow around a stiff area provides increased healing factors. Apply the heat directly over the area that’s causing you discomfort for 15 minutes. Be cautious not to burn yourself, as some heating pads get very hot.
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Step 2: Stretch
After you’ve heated the area for 15 minutes, begin stretching your neck by pulling your head with one hand until you feel a light stretch. Once you feel the stretch, hold it in that spot for at least 20 seconds. This is very important; anything less than 20 seconds is a waste of time. I see many athletes who tell me they stretch all the time, then I see them do it and they hold the stretch for 5 seconds. This is pointless.
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Step 3: Foam Roll
Foam rolling your thoracic spine and right below the area of your neck that hurts can provide instant relief. Most athletes are very tight in this area to begin with, but focusing on it can really help with the pain. A little trick I use is to place the foam roller lengthwise down your spine, with the top of the roller positioned so that the back of your head hangs off the end. Give yourself a hug and, with your feet on the ground, rotate back and forth 3-4 inches each way, almost as if you were rocking back and forth. This requires balance, so be careful not to fall off.
These tips can provide you with instant relief for a sore neck. Do all three until your pain is gone, then continue foam rolling your thoracic spine to prevent soreness in the future.