Neck pain – when the load on the shoulders becomes too much

woman with neck pain

(c) Shutterstock – Syda Productions

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In This Article We Explain Where Your Neck Pain Comes From and Which Treatment Is Particularly Effective Against Your Complaints

Are you stressed at work, or is there tension at home? Do you sit a lot at work? Then you probably know the pulling and drilling pain in the neck and shoulder area and the cervical spine. Don’t worry, you are not alone! Many people suffer from excruciating neck pain. But we are going to change that. In this article we shall explain:

  • how neck pain is caused,
  • which factors contribute to neck pain,
  • which therapies effectively help and
  • how you can combat your neck pain with our exercises.
Roland Liebscher-Bracht

Roland Liebscher-Bracht

Germany's most trusted pain specialist and author of several bestselling self-help books on the treatment of pain conditions.

Read more

Roland Liebscher-Bracht is Germany's most trusted pain specialist and author of several bestselling books on pain treatment. Together with his wife, Dr. med. Petra Bracht, he has developed a revolutionary method to treat pain conditions. With the help of the so-called "osteopressure", where you press specific points on your body, and special stretching exercises, pain can be stopped entirely without medication or surgical intervention. This pain treatment allows you to alleviate pain by yourself. Find out how exactly this works in this article or our numerous YouTube videos.

Roland Liebscher-Bracht

Germany's best-known pain specialist and author of several bestselling books on self-help against pain.

Read more

Roland Liebscher-Bracht is Germany's best-known pain specialist and author of several bestselling books on pain treatment. Together with his wife, the physician Dr. Petra Bracht, he has developed a revolutionary new form of pain treatment: With the so-called "Osteopressur", in which certain points on your body are pressed, and special stretching exercises, pain can be stopped completely without medication or surgical intervention. It is particularly important that this pain treatment gives you the opportunity to help yourself against your pain in a self-determined way. You can find out exactly how this works in this article and in the numerous YouTube videos.

1. Neck Pain at a Glance

Neck pain is widespread and, after back pain, is the second most common cause of complaints of the musculoskeletal system. 1)  ​Women are more frequently affected by pain in the shoulder-neck area or pain in the cervical spine than men. Mostly, neck pain occurs in middle age. In adulthood, one third of all Germans suffer from neck pain at least once in the course of a year, which can also extend into the head and cause headaches. 2) ​Most complaints are due to tension in the muscles and fasciae in the cervical spine and shoulder area and can be quickly and effectively treated with our pain therapy.

neck muscles

(c) Shutterstock- Bluskystudio

By the way, there is no precise definition of neck pain from a medical point of view. For orientation, the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) defines neck pain as pain that is bounded at the top by the area of the bone ridge at the occipital bone (Linea nuchalis superior) of the head, at the bottom by the first thoracic vertebrae at the spine and laterally by the trapezius muscles near the shoulder joint. 3)

Neck complaints are also known as stiff neck, wryneck, cervical syndrome or cervical spine syndrome. Cervical spine syndrome describes neck pain and related symptoms in this area, the cause of which lies in functional disorders and/or degenerative changes (wear and tear) of the intervertebral discs or facet joints (parts of a vertebra). 4) Clinically, neck pain cannot always be distinguished from shoulder pain. ((Scherer, M. & Chenot, J.F. (2016): DEGMA-Leitlinie S1 Nackenschmerzen. Often neck pain is also the cause of headaches.

1.1 Symptoms of Neck Pain

Muscle tension and shortened fasciae cause pain in the neck and back of the head that radiates to the shoulders and arms and can even lead to numbness in the fingers. However, the pain is for the most part limited directly to the neck area. Often you can only move your neck to a limited extent when you have neck pain. This is why it is also commonly called a stiff neck. Only very rarely do serious diseases trigger neck pain. When it is better to consult a doctor, we explain to you by means of the so-called “Red Flags”.

🚩 Red Flags — You Should Consult a Doctor If You Have These Symptoms 5)

The symptoms of neck pain (cervical syndrome) are usually harmless and can be treated well. This is because the complaints are usually muscle hardenings which you can easily remedy yourself with our exercises.

Only in very rare cases does neck pain indicate other diseases such as growths (e.g. tumours), inflammations (e.g. rheumatism), injuries (e.g. whiplash), infections (e.g. meningitis), ankylosing spondylitis or osteoporosis. Neck pain can also be a symptom of fibromyalgia. With fibromyalgia, a wide variety of painful conditions can occur, some of which may be felt in the neck area. If you experience the following symptoms, you should consult a doctor:

  • Neck pain after a trauma such as whiplash, after a car accident
  • Sudden fever, especially in people with diabetes mellitus
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Past history of tumours
  • Pain in the area of the lumbar spine (lumbar spine), which has already lasted for more than three months, indicates ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Motor failures such as gait disorders.
  • Neurological signs, such as numbness in the arms and fingers, may indicate damage to the nerve roots. Loss of temperature sensitivity of the upper extremities may also indicate problems in the area of the nerve roots
  • A positive Babinski reflex: This involves stroking the large plantar fascia on the foot. A positive reflex causes the big toe to pull upwards, which may indicate meningitis or tumours

1.2 Acute and Chronic Neck Pain

Doctors distinguish acute from chronic neck pain. If the stiff neck disappears after three weeks, this is called acute pain. If the neck tensions have already lasted for more than twelve weeks, doctors diagnose a chronic illness. 6) As a rule, neck pain has an acute course. Only about five to ten percent of those affected develop chronic complaints. 7) ​ Have you also had a stiff neck for quite some time and home remedies from the pharmacy do not help? Then help is here. Because with our pain therapy we can treat both chronic and acute neck tensions quickly and effectively. 

The Best Exercises and Tips Against Neck Pain

We've got your back! Download our FREE PDF guide featuring our most effective exercises for getting rid of Neck Pain. 
A preview of the Liebscher & Bracht's guide against neck pain with the front page on the left side.
All gain. No pain.

2. Causes and Risk Factors for Neck Pain

Patients with neck pain (cervical spine syndrome) expect an exact diagnosis and explanation of their clinical picture when they see their doctor. If you have had neck pain for a while and nothing has helped so far, you probably know this. Doctors then often speak of so-called idiopathic pain as the cause of your complaints. 8) ​In plain language, this means that the doctor does not know where the pain comes from – it has no identifiable cause. This “diagnosis” is unsatisfactory for both doctor and patient. The pain is often blamed on changes in your vertebrae or wear and tear due to your age. We will now explain how this is not necessarily the case.

For us, one thing is certain: If you want to treat pain effectively and successfully in the long term, you must understand where the pain comes from. And this is exactly what you can do now: The cause of pain is in most cases strained muscles and fasciae in the back, neck and shoulder area due to incorrect posture and strain. As a result of incorrect posture and monotonous movements, the muscles harden and react painfully to pressure at certain points. Just a little bit more stress – and the neck becomes rigid. This results in a feedback loop of pain leading to poor posture, thus promoting and aggravating the pain and the muscles hardening even more. In the worst case, a real blockage develops – the acute torticollis. In addition, disc tissue and vertebral bodies can be damaged by the excessive tension.

Neck Pain

As you can see, neck pain is about incorrect strain – typically when sitting in an office – which results in the neck muscles being overstretched. Sitting at your desk for prolonged periods with incorrect posture impacts adversely upon the neck and shoulders. As a result, the upright posture, which would relieve the back and neck muscles, suffers.

Receptors are located in the periosteum, which register poor posture to the vertebrae and intervertebral discs. These receptors pass on this threat to the structure to the brain. The brain then projects a pain into the corresponding area of the body and in this way makes an individual aware of the threat to the structure – the pain alerts him or her, so to speak. Liebscher & Bracht refers to this pain as “alarm pain”, and this is exactly where the therapy starts.

Our manual therapy aims to reduce excessive tension in order to eliminate acute muscle pain. In this way you can also stop the excessive wear and tear on your intervertebral disc tissue and vertebral bodies. Long-term freedom from pain is made possible by our exercises

By the way, a herniated disc in the cervical area could also be the reason for hardened muscles in the neck.

Tense Muscles? These Are the Risk Factors:

  • Neck pain is especially common in people who spend a lot of time sitting.
  • Poor postures (often at work) with permanent hyperextension of the cervical spine and tension promote neck pain.  9)
  • Physical strain, for example lifting heavy loads or vibrations, causes neck pain.10)
  • (Cold) draughts can also cause hardening of the muscles and cramps in the neck.

Various studies have shown that psychological factors also play a major role in the development of neck pain: 11)

  • Stress, difficulty in problem solving
  • Severe tension, which leads to cramping of the neck muscles
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Social factors, such as stress with colleagues or lack of social support, can aggravate or promote neck pain.

3. Treatment of Neck Pain

Now that you understand how your stiff neck develops, let us explain how we will treat it. We will also show you various conventional therapies – some of which you may already have tried. We’ll explain why they don’t work effectively. We will also look at the costs associated with these procedures.

3.1 Pain Therapy According to Liebscher & Bracht

Pain therapy according to Liebscher & Bracht is a manual therapy in which the alarm pain receptors in the periosteum are specifically pressed. This normalizes the muscular-fascial tension in your neck. As a result, the joint surfaces and vertebral bodies are no longer pressed together as strongly. Very quickly you will notice your neck tension and pain have disappeared or are reduced significantly.

Our therapy has proved to be extremely effective in alleviating neck and shoulder pain. At your very first appointment we can determine whether your neck pain is due to muscular-fascial tension and whether Liebscher & Bracht therapy can help. However, 95 percent of all patients treated with Liebscher & Bracht pain therapy go home pain-free or with significantly less pain.

Free of neck pain

© Nikolay Litov |

Our vision is to cultivate a life free from chronic pain for all, without being dependant upon medication or surgery. To achieve this in the long term, you must change the postural habits which have caused your neck pain. Otherwise, the muscular-fascial tensions will soon build up again, and the pain will return. We will fully support you in this healing process!

Roland Liebscher-Bracht has developed various exercises that specifically counteract the muscular-fascial shortening.
You can watch and participate on Liebscher & Bracht’s free YouTube channel. In order to achieve lasting freedom from pain, regular stretching exercises are necessary

Did You Already Know? Manual Therapy for Neck Pain Is Cheaper and More Effective Than Alternative Therapies

In a study, a cost-effectiveness comparison of physiotherapy, manual therapy and general practitioner therapy in the treatment of patients with neck pain was examined. For the study, 183 patients who had had neck pain for at least two weeks were divided into three groups. 12) The group treated after manual therapy was shown different stretching techniques and was treated once a week with muscular mobilisation. The patients in the physiotherapist group received individual build-up exercises, but without mobilisation of the painful area. 13) The patients in the general practitioner therapy were only given information brochures and prescribed painkillers if necessary. 14) 

After evaluation, the results were clear: manual therapy was the most effective treatment. During the first 26 weeks, the patients in this group showed a faster and more comprehensive improvement of their neck pain than the other two groups. In addition, the manual therapy was more cost-effective than the other two therapies. The costs of manual therapy after one year averaged €447, with physiotherapy at €1,297 and general practitioner therapy at €1,379 being significantly more expensive. 15) 

3.2 Conventional Therapies

Many doctors are under pressure to achieve rapid treatment success. Due to time constraints, the effectiveness and sustainability of treatment measures are often insufficiently examined, especially in the case of diffuse clinical pictures. Here is an overview of the various therapies that are often used for neck pain.

A syringe and three vials of liquid.

3.3 Drugs, Muscle Relaxants, Injections

For people suffering with neck pain, the first step is often to try painkillers such as paracetamol, which can easily be bought at pharmacies. But why take medication if the neck pain can be treated without it? And when seemingly harmless painkillers can have unwanted side-effects.

Muscle relaxants are also used to control pain and relax muscles. Unfortunately, this has disadvantages as muscle relaxants impair driving ability and the facility to operate machinery. It can also increase the risk of falls in older people. 16) The guideline on neck pain of the German Society of General and Family Medicine therefore concludes that muscle relaxants should not be used in pain therapy as a matter of principle. 17)

In extreme cases, some doctors may use local anaesthetic to numb the pain. The injection of local anaesthetics is adheres to the so-called Davos method (i.e. where it hurts). 18) The anaesthetics block the transmission of stimuli, which should relieve the neck pain quickly and permanently. From our point of view, this is the wrong way to proceed. We believe that your body shows you, with pain, the location that requires attention and correction. Suppressing this communication is not sensible. If your movement patterns change, your body can stop the alarm pain even without injections. There is no scientific proof that local anaesthetics alleviate muscular pain. 19)

Did You Know? A Magnesium Deficiency Can Also Lead to Tense Muscles!

If your body lacks magnesium, this can lead to muscular tension. An adult should take 300-400 milligrams of magnesium per day. This corresponds to the amount contained in 200 grams of wholemeal bread, for example. But beware, too much magnesium also harms your body. It induces diarrhoea and/ or muscle weakness.

A therapist is treating the arm of a person.

3.4 Chiropractic

Studies examined the thesis that regular manipulation of the spinal column not only helps with neck pain in the acute state, but could also be used preventively. A Canadian study with 98 patients treated by chiropractors showed that spinal manipulation was not effective in preventing neck pain. 20) A further evaluation of 33 studies concluded that manipulation alone is not effective. (Pool, J.J.M./Rubinstein, S.M./van Tulder, M. (2005): Anerkannte Evidenz der Wirksamkeit konservativer Behandlungen akuter und chronischer Nackenschmerzen. In: Manuelle Medizin, Ausgabe 5, S.300)) Only in combination with physiotherapy could better results be achieved for neck pain. Massages also relax the neck muscles in the short term, but do not relieve the cramps in the long term.

A couple of acupuncture needles.

3.5 Acupuncture

In various studies, for example in a study at the University of New York, the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments for neck pain has been proven. 21) Acupuncture has also been shown to be successful for chronic neck pain. However, you must then regularly go under the needle. With our pain therapy, you can be pain-free after an average of three treatments – and you can do our exercises from the comfort of your home without having to invest a lot of time.

Two women are nordic walking.

3.6 Nordic Walking

The right movement is the key to a painless life! It is considered that Nordic Walking not only has a positive effect on the endurance performance of the patients, but that the movement with the poles also strengthens the entire postural musculature. 22) It also has a positive effect on neck pain. However, patients would have to do Nordic Walking for an hour several times a week which might be difficult to fit into an already busy schedule. But the good news is our stretching exercises for neck pain require 15 minutes of your time!

Swirls of blue electricity.

3.7 Electrotherapy

Electrotherapy is the therapeutic use of electricity to reduce pain in the case of neck problems. However, studies have so far been unable to prove the effectiveness of this therapy. 23)

A few ice cubes on fire.

3.8 Good to Know: Thermotherapy – Treatment with Heat and Cold

A warming of the tissue in the neck causes a stronger blood circulation. This is sometimes helpful, for example, in combination with our fascial roll massage and exercise, because waste products can be removed more quickly. In the case of severe inflammation, however, warmth should be used with caution and is not recommended. 24) 

Cold treatments work by reducing the conductivity of the nerve fibres in the tissue. 25) ) ​This sometimes blocks the pain for a short time. But watch out: Cold draughts cause neck tensions all the more!

The Best Exercises and Tips Against Neck Pain

We've got your back! Download our FREE PDF guide featuring our most effective exercises for getting rid of Neck Pain. 
A preview of the Liebscher & Bracht's guide against neck pain with the front page on the left side.
All gain. No pain.

4. Exercises for Neck Pain

We will now show you some exercises with which you can quickly and reliably eliminate your annoying neck pain. Among the exercises you will find a box with general information about our exercises. If you do not know them yet, it is best to read them first and then watch our exercise video:

Sources & Studies [+]

Try This Exercise for Neck Pain Directly at Home:

A woman is performing a neck pain exercise.

Exercise 1: Sit cross-legged and make your back completely straight.​ Now bend your left arm to prevent you from pulling your shoulder up during the stretching exercise. Now turn your head 45 degrees to the left so that you are looking at your hand. Now reach with your right hand over your head to your left ear and pull your chin as far as you can towards the larynx. You will immediately feel the stretch in your neck – and that’s good, because that’s how you release your tension! Stay in the stretch for two minutes and breathe evenly. Then change sides and release your tension and muscle stiffness on the other side.

A woman is lying on her back, with her hands on her head, stretching.

Exercise 2: Lie on the floor stretched out lengthwise. Now pull your chin as far as possible​ towards the larynx. If you already feel a stretch in your neck, stay in this position. If you do not feel a stretch yet still have tension in your neck, then take a book and place it so that it ends where your cervical spine begins. Now use both hands to help and align your head horizontally before pulling your chin back to your chest. If you have already done the exercise a few times, you might even be able to put a second book underneath.

A woman is rolling her back with a massage ball.

Exercise 3: Sit comfortably and take a mini foam ball in your left hand first. Move your left hand​ to your right shoulder and support your left arm with your right hand. This way you can move backwards on the right side and can now roll the whole area with the mini-sphere. Where there are painful areas and tensions, you will remain for a while and roll especially intensively. When you are finished with this side, you will move over to the other side.

📌 Checklist for the Liebscher & Bracht Exercises

To make sure nothing goes wrong with our exercises, we have put together five important tips. They should help you to easily integrate the exercises into your everyday life and achieve optimal results

✅ Practice six days a week and do each exercise at least once a day.

✅ For each exercise you should invest two to two and a half minutes. If you are just starting to do the exercises or if the pain is still too much, you can also gradually increase the intensity.

✅ Always follow your personal pain scale of one to ten. You will get the best results if you work on a scale of eight or nine for each stretch. Nine means: You feel an intense pain, but you can still breathe calmly and do not have to tense up.

✅ A pain that is still bearable is the most important point of reference for you. So don’t be afraid of it: Your body will tell you that you are counteracting the muscular “contractions” in exactly the right place.

✅ Be patient – even if it is difficult. It may take some time for your brain to store new movement programs. But if you stay on the ball and make the exercises your daily routine, you can regain your freedom from pain.


Roland Liebscher-Bracht is performing a pain-free exercise.

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All gain. No pain.


Roland Liebscher-Bracht is performing a pain-free exercise.

Sign up for The Pain Relief Advisor and each week we’ll deliver free expert pain management content right to your inbox.

All gain. No pain.

Sources & Studies [+]