Most neck pain isn't purely of physical origin. It is almost always related to the stress of carrying the burdens of one's life. Jesus bearing the cross on his shoulders is a nice image for this. One need not be a Christian to find this image useful. Whenever we have neck pain, we might imagine that the burden we are carrying, the stress of our lives, is what is causing the neck pain. It's useful too to realize that often the burdens that we carry are a necessary part of our lives. It's the cross we must bear.
This isn't to say that we can't also seek some relief, but it's helpful to imagine that the stress we're under is a part of our role in life. The burden sometimes lightens when we see its necessity and its importance. It isn't just random pain, but the burden of the life we live. It's the stress of putting food on the table, getting along with our family, and taking care of our children, all of which is weighing on our shoulders.
This month, an excellent thing that we can all do for our poor burden-bearing necks is Shoulder Circles. Shoulder Circles is a simple movement that helps us to remember our overburdened necks, relieve some of the stress, and improve neck and shoulder mobility. To perform Shoulder Circles simply lift both shoulders toward your ears and then roll them back, then down, then forward, and then upward toward your ears again. Repeat ten times and then reverse the direction. Do this slowly and smoothly, and purposefully keep the size of the circle small. It isn't so much the range of motion as it is the smoothness of the motion that helps. Think of this as a little dance that you can do for your neck. There is often a tingling, releasing feeling that occurs along with this movement. That's the excess burden being lifted from the neck. It has a similar effect to having someone rub your shoulders, which is another good idea.
The next time your neck hurts, reflect on the burdens that you currently carry. Some of those burdens you probably don't need to be carrying, but others are most certainly necessary. Reflect on the necessity of the burdens. Sometimes a stiff neck is just part of being alive. The image at the start of this essay is a painting by the poet William Blake. It can be very useful: a father carrying his child on his shoulders will often end up with a stiff neck, but some of the burdens that our necks carry are necessary, and some may even be enjoyable parts of life.