Neck pain is a very common complaint. Up to a quarter of Americans suffer from neck pain at sometime in their life, with a larger proportion of women reporting problems with the neck then men. Waking with a stiff neck is usually caused by strain in the muscles, tendon and ligaments. Ongoing neck pain could be due to spinal stenosis, arthritis or disc degeneration.
One of the most common causes of neck pain is known as whiplash. Whiplash is an injury which is caused by the sudden movement of the head. Whiplash is often associated with road traffic accidents but it can also occur during sports, by falling or by a blow to the head. Most whiplash injuries will go away on their own, but painkillers and physiotherapy are sometimes necessary.
Many people suffering with long term neck pain accept it as part of everyday life and suffer in silence. However, whether your neck pain has been caused by a recent trauma or is part of an ongoing problem, the following tips can help to alleviate or reduce the pain.
1. Pillow Talk
It is no coincidence that many people report waking up with a stiff neck. Whilst there could be an underlying problem, finding the correct support for your neck whilst you sleep is a preventative measure. Choosing an appropriate pillow really depends on what is causing the issue. However as a general rule, a pillow which supports the neck in it’s natural position is the best option.
When choosing a new pillow for better neck support, consider how you normally alleviate any tension. For example:
Does your neck pain decrease when lying on your back and supported with a relatively flat pillow?
Do you find lying on your side a more comfortable position?
Does a reclining position prevent the onset of neck pain?
Before investing in a new orthopedic pillow, talk to a specialist about your sleeping position and they will be able to advise you on the best products.
2. Sleeping Positions
The general advice for those suffering with neck pain is to sleep on their backs. This is commonly the most comfortable position for the spine. However depending on the cause of the pain, other positions may offer more comfort.
When neck pain is caused by a condition such as spinal arthritis , sleeping on an incline is potentially beneficial. Whilst some people might invest in an adjustable bed, a more cost effective option is to add a foam wedge pillow to the existing bed.
Pillows which are too high can cause unnecessary neck pain. The ideal height is between 4 – 6 inches thick. If your pillow forces your neck into an unnatural position or puts strain on the area, it is time to look at alternatives.
3. Desk Job
More and more people are spending extensive hours in front of a computer screen. It is part of our modern world but it can have a negative effect on the neck.
Limit problems by ensuring your monitor is positioned correctly. Your gaze should be aimed directly in the centre of the screen . If this is not the case, adjust your monitor.
Laptops can also be problematic as the neck is angled in a downward position. Whilst this might be ok for shorter periods of time, longer sessions put strain on the neck. To avoid problems, connect your laptop to an additional screen and take frequent breaks.
4. Break free from your cell…
Are you spending long periods of time on your cell phone, even in your downtime? Whilst using a cell phone our bodies are often in a bent forward position. This is unnatural for our spine and puts strains on the soft tissue. Do you remember a time when there were no cell phones? Put it away and give your neck a break. And when you do need to use your cell, try to adopt a position which keeps your neck aligned on top of your shoulders.
5. Go Hands Free
Many jobs, particularly for people working in sales, need to spend long hours on the phone. Headsets should be provided by your company, so make sure you use them. Never be tempted to cradle the handset between your neck and shoulder.
Hopefully exercising will already be part of your daily routine. Maybe you work hard on firming tummy muscles or toning your arms, but have you ever exercised your neck? Your neck has muscles just like any other part of the body and a simple chin tuck exercise can ensure your neck is stronger and able to keep those pains away.
The chin tuck exercise can be done whilst sitting in the car or sitting at your desk, no trip to the gym is necessary.
Pull back the upper back and head until the chin is down and resting on the chest. This should be a scooping action in which the neck becomes elongated.
Hold the head in the position for 10 seconds, release and repeat 10 times.
Repeat the exercise between 5 and 7 times a day.
Please note that it is normal to feel some stretching of the muscles on the side of the neck that run down to the collarbone. If you are experiencing difficulty in pulling the head all the way back, just pull back as far as it feels comfortable and build up the movement over time.
Think about your posture whilst both sitting and standing. Bad posture places the head in front of the shoulders which forces additional weight onto the neck muscles, adding strain. Of course we can all maintain the correct posture for short periods of time but sometimes we lack the mindfulness to be consistent. If you have a desk job, it could be advantageous to use a stability ball which will require your body to adopt good posture and strengthen your core muscles.
8. Take The Load Off
Carrying a heavy work bag on one shoulder causes the shoulders to become uneven and puts strain on the neck muscles. Perhaps consider reducing the weight of what you carry, or carrying evenly with a backpack positioned over both shoulders.
9. Have A Drink
We all know that drinking plenty of water has numerous health benefits, but do we actually do it? By staying hydrated, the discs between the vertebrae will stay pliable and strong, protecting you from neck pain. The recommended amount is eight large glasses of water a day and with so many motivational bottles and apps designed to remind us to chug…we really should not forget.
10. Relieve Trigger Point Pain
Trigger points are small knots in the muscle which lead to pain. There are certain massages and exercises which you can learn to lessen the pain felt.
If you are currently suffering neck pain which you cannot seem to alleviate, why not contact Gold Coast Chiropractic. Skilled doctors will be able to assess your problem and create an individualized treatment program which could relieve you neck pain for good.
Don’t suffer anymore, contact us today on the number below. 312.988.9655.