9 Natural Shoulder and Neck Pain Relief Tips You Can Do Without Physio
Stiff neck? Aching shoulders?
Don’t panic, this is not a sign that youth is prematurely exiting your body.
Upper body pain can affect anyone—young or old. It’s often a sign of inflammation or injury and isn’t always serious. Pain is just your body’s way of telling you something is wrong and needs your attention.
But when your neck and shoulders are constantly aching, it affects every aspect of your life. Work, study and exercise can be difficult, or even impossible. In fact, neck pain is the most common reason office workers are absent from their jobs.
You might pop some painkillers to cope, but the pain quickly comes back. Maybe you’ve tried massage or physiotherapy, but this doesn’t stop what’s causing you pain.
Are you sick of pain ruling your life?
Well, what if I told you that you can reduce and manage your shoulder and neck pain without physiotherapy?
It’s easier than you think!
My 9 Natural Shoulder and Neck Pain Relief Tips You Can Do Without Physio will help you reduce discomfort and prevent common causes of your pain, so you can get back to living your best life.
But first, let’s explore what causes upper body pain together!
Pain can be good
Nothing is worse than that sting you feel when you burn your fingers on a hot plate. Or when you step on a Lego with your bare foot. Oof!
While it doesn’t feel like it, experiencing pain is actually a good thing.
That agonizing sensation is just your brain getting an instant message from the pain receptors in your body. These protect you by telling your hand to get the heck away from the stove. Or to rest your bruised heel.
Although not all pain means something is wrong. Sometimes when you feel pain, it’s a sign that something good is happening to your body.
Ever feel sore after an intense workout?
This is partly because lactic acid in your muscles is building up, and also the microscopic damage you’re doing to your muscles when you lift heavy weights (this usually occurs a few days after a workout).
Known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, this kind of pain is usually temporary and not a reason for concern, so long as it’s not constant.
While it’s okay to push past this kind of discomfort, other pains affecting your upper body can lead to serious injury or health issues if ignored.
It’s time to take control of your pain by working with your body—not against it.
Painkillers are not a long-term solution
Painkillers can give you instant relief.
That’s a pretty handy solution to chronic pain, right?
It’s easy to reach for the Advil when you’re aching. Within 20 minutes you’re feeling better, and you can go about your daily activities unphased.
The catch is painkillers work because they block your body’s pain signal to your brain, numbing the sensation. This works against your body’s natural coping mechanisms and only masks your pain.
These medications also only last a few hours and then you have to take more. This is a problem because long-term use of over-the-counter drugs can have dangerous side-effects.
While some painkillers help with healing by reducing inflammation, these solutions do not get to the root cause of your pain, so your injury may reappear.
Likewise, a massage or a physiotherapy session can also be good for short-term relief, by stretching out aching muscles. These treatments don’t always address what caused your injury. This can be a very expensive option if you’re making regular appointments to keep up the pain relief.
So, without drugs or medical support, how else can you reduce your shoulder and neck pain?
It’s easier than you think! You can self-manage this kind of pain before it gets too serious.
I know this because it worked for me!
Managing pain changed my life
If you’re a frequent reader of my blog, you know I had a knee injury in my early 20s, which led to painful surgery. I also worked crazy-long hours, plus studied at university, so I wasn’t resting or paying attention to my posture.
As a result, I developed terrible chronic pain throughout my body, and was constantly relying on physiotherapists to cope.
My career path led me to blogging for a gym, where I worked alongside a physical therapist who taught me how to self-manage my pain. Over the years, I’ve also discovered how to effectively treat and prevent upper body discomfort by making small, but significant, changes in my life.
I still get pain where I have permanent injuries. In my knee and, thanks to my childhood love of horse riding, my back and neck. But now I’m mindful of it, and on most occasions relieve upper body pain myself.
If I ever feel like it’s getting out of control or might be serious, I seek professional physical therapy.
Today I’m sharing this knowledge with you, so you too can control your shoulder and neck pain, without physio or medication.
Are you ready?
Let’s do this!
My 9 Natural Shoulder and Neck Pain Relief Tips You Can Do Without Physio
1. Stretch your body every day
Have you ever noticed that a good stretch gives you instant pain relief?
Not only does the stretching of your muscles relieve tension and increase flexibility, it can also release endorphins in your body, which relieves pain and enhances your mood.
But what if you don’t have time to dedicate 30 minutes a day to a stretching routine?
It can be easier to fit in small periods of stretching here and there throughout the day. This is plenty of time to stretch your muscles enough to provide pain relief and speed up your healing.
My tip: Try to stretch a few minutes every couple of hours.
If your pain is intense, you may benefit from 20-30 minutes of yoga at the end of the day, until your pain is more manageable.
Check out these easy-to-follow stretching tutorials:
- This app by GOWOD customizes super effective stretches for you, depending on your flexibility. (I’m not an affiliate)
- This is a great 5-minute stretch for shoulder pain
And for a longer, more intense stretch you may like:
2. Move your body!
It’s tempting to stick to the couch for a while, to rest up while your body hurts.
But did you know being immobile can be bad for your health?
Your muscles deteriorate and your overall health plummets when you’re not moving around enough. In fact, studies have found that women who spent too much time stationary have shorter lifespans.
Rather than causing more discomfort, the correct exercise can be even more effective at relieving pain than stretching.
So, which exercises are the most helpful?
Building strength is great for shoulder and neck pain management. It stabilizes your joints and improves your posture, which can reduce future injuries.
Cardiovascular exercise is another natural painkiller that releases endorphins in your body. This works by reducing your brain’s perception of pain.
You can get pain relief from a workout that doesn’t leave you super sweaty and completely out of breath. Any movement that gets your heart rate up for a sustained period, without causing you more pain, will release those much-needed endorphins.
3. Protect Your Eyes
Do you get a headache or sore neck after you’ve been straining your eyes?
You’re not alone.
Most of us have daily activities that involve prolonged focus either on digital screens, on a single task if we do physical work, or even reading a book.
When you squint, lean forward, or tilt your head into an unnatural position to see more clearly, you create muscle tightness in your shoulders, neck, and head.
If you suffer from out of sync or misaligned eyes, you put stress on the nerve in your brain responsible for head and neck sensations. If this is an issue for you, you can try special contact lenses, such as Nureolens, to bring your eyes into alignment.
- Give your eyes a short break once an hour. You can use this time to stretch your eyes with activities like these Eye Yoga exercises.
- If you get so focused on your work that you forget to take a break, you may benefit from using this time management tool.
- Try to avoid exposure to LED light at night. Or you can also try blue light glasses for protection.
- Try nourishing your eyes with antioxidants. Lutein and zeaxanthin are potent antioxidants that cancel out free radicals, which can help prevent damage to your eye cells.
My shoulder pain significantly reduced when I started taking these lutein, with zeaxanthin, supplements.
4. Invest in Your Work Desk
Does your upper body ache from sitting at your computer for hours at a time?
If you’re in a deskbound job, it’s hard to keep a correct posture all day, and move around enough to keep your muscles active.
When your desk and chair aren’t set up correctly, you can end up looking down at your screen or sitting in a poor posture for long periods of time, and your neck is working overtime to support your 11-pound head. No wonder it hurts after a few hours.
Investing in an ergonomic (good for your body) workstation is one of the best things I have done to prevent upper body pain.
The best way to stay comfortable and keep your posture correct while working at your desk is to have your eyes level with your screen, and your elbows and wrists level with your keyboard.
What kind of desk chair do you have?
If you’re in an office, chances are it’s ergonomic. But if you spend a lot of time at home, it’s just as important to have a good quality adjustable chair there too.
My tips: If your legs don’t sit naturally at a 90-degree angle, you can invest in a footrest (I use this Yoga block). You can also try using a good cushion for extra support.
If you work off a laptop, it’s better for your posture to keep it elevated (you can use a laptop stand, or a few thick textbooks) so the screen is at your eye level.
I invested in an ergonomic keyboard and mouse when I suffered from light carpal tunnel syndrome. Since then, I’ve had no problem with my wrists. I take these with me, along with two of my cushions, when I work outside of my home!
Check out this video instruction for an ergonomic desk setup!
5. Manage Your Stress
Feeling stressed out?
This might be the reason your neck and shoulders are hurting.
When you’re stressed or anxious, your blood pressure increases and your muscles tense and tighten, and your perception of pain heightens.
So, what can you do to manage stress and get your shoulders down from around your ears?
I find meditation very useful for managing stress! By meditating, you will become aware of what’s making you feel stressed. This can help you think about how to cope with it!
In fact, you can reduce the sensation of your pain by meditating!
When I notice pain from stress, I stretch my body, exercise, try to sleep well, and I do moxibustion.
6. Try Self Moxibustion
What on earth is moxibustion?
It’s your go-to instant pain relief!
Moxibustion (moxa, for short) is an ancient Asian heat therapy, which uses burning the herb mugwort over specific acupuncture points in your body to relieve upper body pain. This works by stimulating your flow of Qi and blood circulation.
Moxa is great for when your pain is acute, as it gives immediate relief.
My tip: While traditional moxibustion is difficult to DIY, there is a Japanese sticker moxibustion version, that’s easy to apply and lasts up to 5 hours.
I haven’t yet found any products like this on Amazon’s North American sites, so I purchased mine from Amazon in Japan, which ships internationally quickly (1kg for a $6 shipping fee). Since this product is less than 1kg, you can try out 30 moxibustion stickers for around $35!
Note: this link will be in Japanese, but you can change the language to English by ticking a box to the right of the search bar at the top of your screen.
How to apply moxa:
- The points for moxibustion are for the upper body, but you can pretty much put it anywhere you feel pain, except your face.
- Avoid using on scars, infections or broken skin, as the heat may cause further irritation.
- Take it off when it’s too hot. You don’t want to burn your skin.
7. Sleep Well
Do you wake up from a restless night’s sleep feeling sore?
It’s not just because you’re tired and cranky.
On the flip side, studies have found that sleep can be a natural analgesic (painkiller) that can help manage and reduce pain.
My tip: Make sleeping well a good habit. Check out my guide on easy ways to improve your sleep quality.
8. Use the pillow the suits your sleep style
When was the last time you changed your pillow?
Is it old and bent out of shape? Is it the right size and style for you?
If you’re waking up with a tight neck or sore shoulders, you may not have the right pillow to suit your sleep style.
So, which is the best pillow for you?
- If you sleep on your back, you want to aim for a 90-degree angle between your body and eyes.
- If you sleep on your side, your spine maintains a straight and natural horizontal line, so you’ll need a thicker pillow than when sleeping on your back.
- Sleeping on your stomach is the most stressful position for your back and neck. If you are most comfortable this way, make sure your pillow is relatively flat, so you aren’t straining your neck. You can also place another flat pillow under your abdomen or pelvis to help your lower back keep its natural alignment.
My tip: You don’t need a fancy one to ease pain. I recommend trying an ergonomic pillow to keep your posture correct. My ergonomic pillow is from IKEA and was only about $40.
9. Keep Warm
Does warming your body up make you feel so good?
Warmth not only lifts your mood, it helps reduce pain.
When you’re warm, you have increased blood flow throughout your body, which flushes lactic acid from your muscles, speeding up the healing process. Like cardio, it also works as a natural painkiller by causing nerve endings to block pain signals.
How to keep warm:
To stay warm in winter, I love to use a neck warmer. In summer you may like to stay cool with air conditioning. This is fine so long as you don’t have the air blowing directly onto your body, as this will cool you down too much.
Also, pay attention to your hands and feet. This is where your body sheds heat.
My tip: If you notice your feet getting cold, try a footbath, which I love to do any time of the year! You don’t need anything fancy or expensive, you can get a bucket or cheap footbath on Amazon and pour in some hot water. Easy!
Next time you experience neck and shoulder pain, keep away from the medicine cabinet and try my natural pain relief tips instead!
You’ll be amazed at the difference these simple changes will make to your comfort.