If you search "neck pain" online, you will find so much information that it can be overwhelming. That's for good reason: About 45 percent of Americans have neck pain at some point, and for some of those people, it's a chronic condition.

I am one of those people who have pretty chronic neck pain (it's not horribly painful, but bad enough that it can be distracting). I'm not a pain-killer-taking kind of person, but a find-the-root-of-the-problem kind, so I have been experimenting with various preventative and curative methodologies found online. Of course, you should always get neck pain checked out by a doctor, especially if it's chronic. But if you find its just tense muscles from stress or working at a computer most days — my issue — here's what worked for me, in order of the relief it gave:

Self-massage: My neck pain emanates from one specific area on the left side of my neck, and after spending some time massaging the area, I have hit upon the spot that gives me the most pain. Gently rubbing that area and around it with an organic oil (I like mixing jojoba oil and lavender oil for an inexpensive, aromatheraputic experience — and the scent of lavender is naturally relaxing). Of course, it would be great to get a professional massage every week, but I've found that doing a daily 5-7 minute self-massage on my neck is more effective than less regular professional massage (and it's free!). See the video below for a solid how-to.

Hot shower: Especially great if you have one of those showerheads that alternates types of spray, simply spending some time gently rotating your neck under a warm-hot showerhead (no need to go superhot and burn yourself) for at least five minutes really does work to loosen and relax tight neck muscles. If you close your eyes, clear your mind and breathe deeply, you can reduce overall tenseness in your body — which can help keep you from tightening up when you exit the shower.

Regular neck exercises: The key with this is "regular": I have to do neck exercises every day to ensure that pain doesn't creep up. But, if you do the exercises most days, I have found that they will bring relief. Remember that your head, which weighs anywhere from 10-14 pounds is held up on a relatively slim neck, so both stretching and strengthening those neck muscles can be truly helpful in avoiding or exacerbating pain. The video below goes over a sample routine.

Move around: If your neck pain is caused by time at the computer, or some other repetitive motion, try to move your position as often as is practical. Ideally, a computer monitor should be at eye level or slightly above, so adjusting your workspace (computer or otherwise) can help. But if you're like me, and work on a laptop, you know that to raise the monitor that high would make typing almost impossible. I compensate by moving around; standing at a counter for awhile, then working at a desk, sitting on the floor (sometimes even lying on my stomach), and doing what I call a long-recline (feet up, arms outstretched to the keyboard). While none of these are ergonomically ideal positions, at least I'm varying the strain my muscles are in. And I get up and walk around, move and stretch more often (at least once an hour), which helps too.

Use only one pillow: When I moved recently, I began sleeping with more pillows that I used to have. It was definitely affecting my neck — many mornings I woke up with even more neck pain than normal. For some reason it didn't occur to me that my new pillow arrangement might be a problem. I went back to using just one medium-thick pillow and found that my morning neck pain disappeared. I must have been torquing my neck sometimes when I slept with two.

Do you have any tried-and-true remedies for neck pain? Please share!

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