By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Many people suffer from neck pain on a regular basis. Stress, poor posture, accidents, and long-stored physiological tension can contribute to a mild stiff neck or even a full-blown muscle spasm of the neck, shoulders, and upper back. When confronted with neck pain, we tend turn to medication or a heating pad for relief. However, there are several yoga poses that have therapeutic effects on the neck as well. The next time you have a twinge of pain, turn yoga poses for relief from neck pain and tension.” – Adam Brady
We all have to deal with pain. It’s inevitable, but hopefully mild and short lived. But, for many, pain is a constant in their lives. The most common forms of chronic pain are back and neck pain. Indeed, back pain is the number one cause of disability worldwide. In addition, neck pain is the number three cause of chronic pain; affecting more than a quarter of Americans. People who experience chronic back and neck pain are limited in their daily activities and may compensate in order to walk, run, sit, etc. and the compensatory postures can produce further sometimes different problems.
There are a myriad of causes for chronic back and neck pain, including something as simple as improper positioning while sleeping, or even sitting or standing with bad posture. It can also occur due to injuries, accidents, heavy lifting or other spinal issues. These types of pain are not only a problem for the individual but are also costly for society as they constitute the largest category of medical insurance claims.
Just as there are many different causes there are also a plethora of treatments for back and neck pain. The most common is the use of drugs, including over –the-counter pain relievers and at times opiates. These are helpful but have limited effectiveness and opiates can lead to addiction and even death. Sometimes the pain can lead to surgical interventions that can be costly and are not always effective. So, alternative treatments such as acupuncture have also been used with some success. We’ve seen in previous posts that mindfulness practices, in general, are effective in treating pain and specific practices such as yoga can be effective for the relief of chronic low-back pain. Many forms of yoga focus on the proper alignment of the spine, which could directly address the source of back and neck pain for many individuals.
In today’s Research News article “Effects of yoga on chronic neck pain: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” See:
or see summary below or view the full text of the study at:
Kim summarized the published research literature on the effectiveness of yoga practices for the treatment of neck pain. They could only identify three controlled trials. These trials reported that, in comparison to control conditions, yoga practice significantly reduced neck pain intensity and the functional disabilities resulting from chronic neck pain.
Hence, the limited research available suggests that yoga practice is effective in treating chronic neck pain. It should be noted that none of the trials included a placebo control group or an active control. So, it is difficult to make firm conclusions. But, what evidence is available suggests that this ancient practice can be helpful in reducing neck pain and its consequent disabilities. Great care, however, should be taken with yoga practice and proper instruction by a certified yoga teacher should be obtained to prevent further injury.
So, lessen of a pain in the neck with yoga.
“Hatha is the sanctuary for those suffering every type of pain. It is the foundation for those practicing every type of Yoga.” ~Svatmarama
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Kim, S.-D. (2016). Effects of yoga on chronic neck pain: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 28(7), 2171–2174. http://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.28.2171
[Purpose] The aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of yoga in the management of chronic neck pain. [Subjects and Methods] Five electronic databases were searched to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of yoga intervention on chronic neck pain. The trials were published in the English language between January 1966 and December 2015. The Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool was used to assess the quality of the trials. [Results] Three trials were identified and included in this review. A critical appraisal was performed on the trials, and the result indicated a high risk of bias. A narrative description was processed because of the small number of RCTs. Neck pain intensity and functional disability were significantly lower in the yoga groups than in the control groups. [Conclusion] Evidence from the 3 randomly controlled trials shows that yoga may be beneficial for chronic neck pain. The low-quality result of the critical appraisal and the small number of trials suggest that high-quality RCTs are required to examine further the effects of yoga intervention on chronic neck pain relief.