Neck pain is arguably the most frustrating pain of them all. Why? Because it is so close to your head that it can affect your focus all day long. It can cause headaches, burning eyes, and even pain down the arms. It can be an absolute nuisance.
The unfortunate thing is that most of the time it is very preventable. Furthermore, once it begins, it can be reversed. In order to escape this unfortunate fate, you first have to identify the cause of the pain. Let's look at 3 common causes of neck pain.
1.) Sitting Posture
Imagine you were holding a baseball bat straight up in the air, it wouldn’t feel that
heavy. Now imagine you are slowly tipping it forward away from you, you can just feel it getting heavier and heavier right?! Well, your neck is holding up your head in the same fashion, it’s easiest when it's directly above the neck, and heaviest when it leaned forward AND looking down! The goal is to make your neck muscles work as little as possible to hold up your head, thus reducing pain and headaches.
Part of the problem is that we stare at screens all day long, phones, computers, tablets, televisions, etc. The location of that screen dictates your posture which dictates your pain or lack thereof. To avoid pain, you should be sitting or standing in an upright posture
with your screen near EYE LEVEL. If your screen is too high, your neck is
compressed in the back, if too low, your heavy head is too far forward, placing
stress on the discs, ligaments, and muscles.
2.) Sleeping Position
Proper alignment of your head and neck is vital while sleeping because you will be
in that position for 7-8 hours. If you are not optimizing your sleeping position with the use of pillows, you are doing a disservice to yourself! Let's look at 2 different positions that can be optimized with the use of pillows. Remember, the goal of the pillow is to place your head in a neutral position (see image):
1.) Sleeping on Your Back: The pillow behind your head should be thick enough so
that your neck and head are aligned with your torso, too thick and your head is
tipped upward and too thin means your head is tipped backward. Try a second pillow under your knees to take the pressure off your mid and lower back.
2.) Side Sleeping: Once again, the pillow should be thick enough so that
your neck and head are aligned with your torso, this means that your head should
be directly between each shoulder, not closer to one or the other. Try a second
pillow between your knees. This keeps the rest of your spine below the neck in
alignment. (Sometimes I like to try a 3rd pillow between my arms for more support)
Bonus: Stomach Sleeping: This position is sure to strain your neck, but if you
insist! Here’s how to minimize pain. It starts with one pillow on the side of your
head as discussed in Position #1 & 2. You MUST also use a second pillow under the
shoulder and upper torso of the side your head is pointing towards. This will cause
less relative twisting of the neck!
3.) Carrying Bags Improperly
When you put a heavy bag on one shoulder, the shoulder muscles on that side are working hard to carry the load. These shoulder muscles are also attached to your neck, tugging on it. Then on the other side, your NECK is working twice as hard to counter-balance the force from the side with the heavy bag.
Try using a backpack, or any time you have multiple bags, carry half the bags
in each arm. I know what you’re thinking, but then I have put one side down
for a few seconds to get my keys out. Believe me, your neck will thank you.
Well, there's your 3 (Easy to Fix) Causes of Neck Pain. For more relief, check out our FREE Guide: 7 simple ways relieve Neck and Shoulder Pain.
If you have further questions regarding this blog post, or other tips that can help you to relieve Neck Pain, Contact Us at Skyline Physical Therapy!