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Pain in the Neck? How Yoga Therapy Supports Recovery

acute pain chronic pain health help holistic yoga therapy inclusive recovery inclusive therapy toronto yoga therapy yoga toronto Apr 15, 2022

Did you know that a 2019 study in the journal Medicine found that chronic neck pain has a high prevalence? Clinical practice suggests that yoga is effective in relieving chronic pain and can reduce the intensity of pain, improve function, increase range of motion, improve quality of life, and boost mood.

Who experiences neck pain?

The experience is quite common -  one out of three people will have it at least once a year. It is more common in women than in men, and among younger people. However, your chance of developing it increases with age.

How is neck pain described?

Acute pain lasts between a few hours to six weeks. Chronic pain lasts anywhere from 7 weeks to years. People who experience it know that it reduces their range of motion, and quality of life - particularly if left untreated.

It is usually felt as pain near the cervical spine which is located beneath your head. It most of the sensation is in your neck, it is called axial pain. If the pain also occurs in your shoulders or arms, it is known as radicular pain. 

Sensations include:

  • Tense or tight neck muscles
  • Persistent aching
  • Stabbing or burning sensation
  • Increased pressure sensitivity in the neck and surrounding area
  • Headache
  • Numbness or tingling in one or both arms.

What causes neck pain?

Causes vary and include:

  • Mental stress resulting in muscle tension
  • Physical strain due to repetitive or strenuous activity
  • Poor spinal balance due to posture, weight, or muscle weakness
  • Trauma or injury to the neck
  • Degeneration due to age, or overuse
  • Complex health conditions including heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, arthritis, stenosis, spondylosis and osteoporosis

How does a yoga therapist approach neck pain?

I approach our work to relieve your neck pain in the following steps:

  1. Assessment: In addition to assessing your range of motion, we will assess a number of quality of life markers to help determine the immediate and long term cause of the pain
  2. Goal review: We will explore your short, medium and long term goals for the practice we will design together, as well as how much time you can commit to it
  3. Practice design, which includes trying:
    1. Deep rest in the short term to relieve strain, tension and physiological causes of acute pain. This practice may include pranayama, or breath modulation, and bhavana, or visualization, to support pain relief.
    2. Once the acute pain subsides, we might add oil application and ball rolling to your practice to help release muscle tension and restore range of motion
    3. Asana or mindful movement practice, which includes exploring all the planes of movement while extending range to achieve maximal flexibility. This practice may include pranayama, or breath modulation, and bhavana, or visualization, to support pain relief.
    4. Once pain has been relieved, and flexibility is restored, we will review the practice and add strengthening components to prevent future pain by improving posture and muscle tone.
  4. Practice testing, where you do your homework by trying to do the practice on a daily basis. We check in regularly to adapt it to suit your life as situations change.

Learn more about these four steps to relieving pain and improving your quality of life. They will help you reconnect with your body, breath and mind so you can achieve your goals and feel your best. 

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