I remembered this helpful tip when I strained my neck last week. Give it a try and see if it can help you, too. For the sake of simplicity, I will give instructions for working with the left side of your neck. However, feel free to turn the directions around to work with the right side if you wish.
1) Sit on the edge of a firm chair with your feet on the floor. Slowly and gently turn your head side to side. Notice how far you can easily turn without stress, strain, or the feeling of tension. Pay attention at what point the tissues of your neck begin to tell you to stop moving. Do not go beyond that point.
2) Take your right arm across your chest and place your right hand gently on the left side of your neck. Keep your thumb together with your fingers. Gently explore the soft tissue of your neck and shoulder. Don’t press or dig into the tissues. Experience the sensation of your hand touching your neck and your neck touching your hand. Take the time to allow your hand to fully connect with your neck and shoulder. Explore the size, shape and contours of your neck and shoulder. Lower your arm. Stop and rest.
3) Place your right hand to the left side of your neck. Gently lift your shoulder toward your ear and lower your shoulder back down. Slowly, gently, lift and lower your shoulder. Many times, very slowly, making small movements. Let your hand explore the changing shape of your neck and shoulder. Stop. Lower your arm and rest.
4) Place your right hand to the left side of your neck. This time, as you lift your shoulder to your ear tilt your left ear toward your shoulder. You are bringing your ear to your shoulder and your shoulder to your ear, then return. Slowly, gently, many times. Your right hand provides comfort and support as you bring your ear and shoulder toward each other and back to your resting position. Listen to the quality of your movement as you make your movements small and slow. Stop, lower your arm, and rest.
Notice the sensations in your neck and shoulder. Slowly and gently turn your head side to side. How does it feel different now? What is the quality of movement as you turn your head side to side? Is it easier to turn your head? How do your shoulders feel?
The ability to “listen” to yourself unlocks the key to self care, self help, managing stress and taking control of your own life. This goes beyond the physical discomfort that we all experience at different times in our lives, but extends into the mental, emotional and psychological aspects as well. This level of awareness allows us to take care of ourselves when appropriate. It directs us to ask for help when indicated. It gives us the wisdom to know the difference.
Cheryl Ilov PT, GCFP