Millions of people around the world suffer from neck pain, causing them intense physical, mental, and emotional discomfort. While there are many approaches to addressing this challenging ailment, some of the most effective remedies are often overlooked
In certain cases, external treatments have their rightful place in helping individuals cope or heal. In other situations, there are powerful tools and resources available that enable a self-empowered process for healing.
Qi Gong is a practice that helps individuals take control of their own health and wellness journey. There are numerous exercises within the practice to address various ailments, including neck pain. In this article, we’ll explore the causes of neck pain, its effects, and exercises to relieve neck pain from a Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong perspective.
Why We Hold Stress in the Neck
Chinese Medicine and Qi Gong seek to understand the root source of various ailments so we can take proactive steps to address them at the most fundamental level. Therefore, for neck pain, it’s important to examine how it develops within the body.
Often, neck pain is the result of holding stress or tension in the neck and shoulders. Generally, this process starts long before we can feel it manifesting in that part of our body.
When we feel stressed out, it’s natural for our breathing to become quicker and more shallow. Instead of taking full, deep breaths, we inhale and exhale rapidly into our upper back and throat. If you stop and pay attention to the breath in a stressful situation, you’ll probably notice that it is quick and uneven. This causes tension to accumulate in those areas.
In addition, stress often causes our muscles to contract and become tighter, especially in the upper back and neck. It’s like there’s a subconscious belief that by tightening our muscles we’ll gain greater control over the situation that’s causing us stress.
Unfortunately, this belief is false. Tensing our body doesn’t actually do us any good and only detracts from our sanity and wellbeing. It’s similar to being a passenger in a car and stomping on the floor in an attempt to stop a car—it’s a futile effort that doesn’t really achieve anything.
When we allow stress to create shallow breathing and tensing of the muscles, neck pain is often the unfortunate result.
The Effects of Carrying Tension in the Neck and Shoulders from Anxiety
The obvious sign of stress and anxiety in the neck is pain. Pain is a feeling that shouts out to us and easily commands our attention. However, there are several other symptoms we can experience as well.
Often, neck pain is accompanied by headaches or foggy thinking. As Qi Gong teaches us, all parts of the body are intimately connected, so stagnation in the back and neck can easily seep into the head.
In turn, these effects can lead us to become fatigued or emotionally drained. When a majority of our attention and energy is wrapped up in pain or mind fog, it can quickly deplete us, leading to a state of tiredness, both physically and emotionally.
Additionally, most people don’t want to move as much when they’re in pain. When we stop moving or stretching, our body can quickly become stiff, which makes it even more difficult to move and be active. Since movement is a crucial part of keeping the muscles and joints healthy and pain-free, neck pain can become a vicious cycle that compounds upon itself and gets worse over time.
How Qi Gong Can Help You to Relax Your Neck Muscles Naturally
Qi Gong is an ancient Chinese practice that helps people work with their own internal energy in a healthy and nourishing way. Because of its healing qualities, it is widely considered to be a powerful form of health care that allows individuals to take an active role in their state of wellness.
Two of the core elements of Qi Gong are flow and relaxation. It is often referred to as “the art of effortless power” and teaches students how to accomplish more by doing less.
Instead of tensing and tightening our muscles in response to stress, it helps us to relax and move through the world with grace and confidence. By finding flow within ourselves and the environment around us, we’re able to not only feel more peaceful internally but we are able to navigate life with more balance and harmony.
These principles of Qi Gong can help us in every aspect of our being: mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Mentally, the practice can help us to experience clear and inspired thinking. Emotionally, it can help us to cultivate happiness and joy while still staying grounded and centered. Physically, it can help us to relax and let go of the stress that causes pain and suffering. This can directly reduce pain in the neck and shoulders.
Natural Neck Pain Relief Qi Gong Exercises
There are numerous Qi Gong exercises that can help with pain relief, but here are three that many people find to be effective.
- Deep Abdominal Breathing
Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands over your lower abdomen. Then, start to take slow, deep breaths through your nose. On your inhale, fill your lower abdomen with air first, then your ribs next, and then your chest. On your exhale, release the air from your chest, then your ribs, and finally your lower abdomen.
Try to breathe deeply and slowly. Allow your mind to focus on each breath and pay attention to the subtleties of each inhale and exhale.
Breathing is one of the fastest ways to work with the nervous system to reduce stress. After a few breaths, you’ll feel your nervous system relaxing and stress start to dissipate. Keep breathing for at least one minute, or you can continue for as long as you would like.
- Spreading the Feathers
When you’re ready, extend your arms out to the side at a 45-degree angle and face the palms of your hands to the ground, as if you’re pushing the earth downward. Keep your legs and your back straight.
Then, lean your head to one side so that you feel a nice neck and shoulder stretch on the other side. Continue breathing slowly and deeply as you focus your mind on the stretching of your neck and shoulder muscles. Be sure to pay attention to how your neck feels and only stretch as far as your body feels comfortable with. Take at least 3-4 breaths in that position before switching sides and doing the same thing on the other side.
- Opening the Flow
After a couple of minutes, it’s time to move on to a flowing exercise.
Continue standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and let your hands rest by your side. Then, inhale slowly and let your arms lift up with your breath until your hands are above your head. On your exhale, bring your hands slowly downward until they return to the place they started by your side.
Continue taking slow, deep breaths. On each inhale, slowly lift your arms up above your head, and on each exhale let them lower softly downward until they return to your side.
As you move your arms, imagine them gliding through an invisible field of energy (also known as, “the sea of Qi”). Try to find a state of flow within yourself and with the world around you. Your mind is focused in the present moment, appreciating the most subtle sensation of each movement and the air that your hands are passing through.
Continue this exercise for as long as you would like, perhaps for two to five minutes. As you breathe and move slowly, feel your body entering into a deep state of relaxation as it releases tightness in all of your muscles.
These are wonderful exercises to do whenever you feel pain in your neck or want to let go of stress during your day. In addition to doing these practices when pain arises, it’s also a great idea to take breaks before pain creeps up.
To prevent neck pain from happening in the first place, Lee recommends taking a work break every forty-five minutes when you’re sitting down in front of your computer. Even if you just stand up and walk around the room, it will make a significant difference over the course of your days, weeks, months, and years.
In addition, Lee also recommends doing a brief exercise such as the one we just mentioned every two hours. By consistently letting go of stress and enjoying Qi Gong movements, it becomes easier to stay pain-free and full of vigor in your day-to-day life.
If you’re interested in learning more about Qi Gong and trying other practices, we have a great opportunity for you.
At Holden QiGong, we offer Qi Gong classes throughout the week so students can look forward to learning a vast variety of practices to help them cultivate physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.
These classes are offered on a monthly subscription basis, but we also provide a free Two-Week Trial to the subscriptions so new students can get a feel for the practice before joining our community. Learn more about the free trial and start practicing today.