Mindful Ways to Decrease Neck Pain

Neck pain and shoulder pain are common, and interrelated. Whether you stand, sit, or drive for long hours, most of us hold our neck and shoulders in strained positions for long periods of time, resulting in chronic pain and stiffness.  So what do you do when pain flares up?

In every yoga class I talk about how our bodies change from day to day and moment to moment. The yoga pose that worked for you yesterday, this morning, or last week, may not be the tool you need at this moment.  The neck is delicate and stretching needs to be done very lightly, gently, and carefully, as to not cause additional suffering.  Even the right stretching usually offers me minimal relief when my neck is tight, and can take months to see improvement.

Switching out my pillow is often the kick starter to relaxing my neck and shoulder muscles, and relieving pain. Our poor necks spend hours on end in virtually the same position, night after night. So when our necks aren’t supported and aligned properly we are not really resting our necks but instead adding to the problem.


Every night is different, what works one night may cause neck pain the next night. When in pain pay close attention to how your head, neck and shoulder feel on your given pillow, change pillows if possible til you find the best option, sometimes I even swap pillows half way through the night.

The reality is that the entire body is connected, so even the shoes we wear play a role in how much stress is put on our necks. And thus the genius of Yoga asana practice, we work the entire body as a whole, releasing tension and restructuring posture from the ground up.

  • If you suffer from occasional or chronic neck and/or shoulder pain pay attention to what is going on.

  • Pay close attention to how you hold your body and what may be aggravating the situation, shoes, chairs, tightness in leg, hips, back…

  • How many hours are you looking down at your phone or tablet - this is a huge neck strainer, ouch been there!

  • Try changing your pillow on a regular basis, and make sure each pillow supports your neck and not just your head.

  • Stretch gently, move more frequently.

  • Circle your shoulders while at your desk or in the car, get up and stretch.

  • Turn your head from side to side, gently drop you chin toward your chest.

  • Keep movement gentle and brief when in pain, breathe slowly and move slowly.

  • Work on reducing your stress level.

  • Meditate on relaxing the muscles in your neck and shoulders for a few minutes each day.

  • If pain persists consider a visit to your doctor and physical therapy.