There is large muscle that runs down the back of your neck called the trapezius. It can cause a lot of trouble for you if it starts to act up. Chronic pain, headaches, and irritability are just a few of the symptoms.
Some people find a little relief from this sort of neck pain by massaging the muscle or by trying to do gentle stretches. But a new study suggests that the most effective way to eliminate chronic neck pain caused by the trapezius muscle is to do strength training.
And not just light weight training, but high-intensity training targeting the neck and shoulder muscles. A Danish research team recruited 48 women with chronic neck pain. They were all aged 30 to 60 years. The women were divided into three groups. One group was assigned specific strength training using dumbbell exercises. Another group was assigned a general fitness training program using a bicycle. And the third group acted as a control group that received general health counseling.
The two training programs were conducted in 20-minute sessions three times a week. The training program lasted 10 weeks. During the course of the training program, the intensity of the exercises was progressively increased.
The researchers found that, after 10 weeks, general pain in the strength training group decreased by 71%. Pain that got worse over time decreased by 79%! In the general fitness training and counseling group, no significant, long-term effect on pain was recorded.
In a follow-up 10 weeks after the study had concluded, women in the strength training group still had lower pain levels than those in the other groups. The researchers concluded that supervised high-intensity strength training of the muscle(s) causing neck pain should be recommended as a treatment.
If you’re considering this type of exercise, consult your doctor to make sure it’s for you. If high-intensity exercise is not your thing, here are a couple of other strategies to relieve pain. You can apply ice to a sore neck to relieve pain and inflammation. A bag of frozen peas or corn makes a great cold pack for the neck — just place it against sore muscles for 10 to 15 minutes several times throughout the day. Ice can be good for relieving pain caused by muscle spasms. You can also try switching between heat and ice.
Also, a warm shower, heating pad, or moist, warm towel can help loosen sore, tight muscles in your neck. Try applying heat for 20 minutes three times a day.