Oh My Aching Neck!
Neck pain is one of the most common reasons patients come in for a first visit. Many times ‘a pain in the neck’ is caused by an accident (usually a car accident), poor sleep position or posture, or work-related repetitive motion.
Our necks are one of our most precious possessions. The neck is important because it surrounds and protects the spinal cord, holds up the head and skull, and allows us to move and turn our head. Too often we find ourselves with a tense, sore, or painful neck.
Neck pain may come from standing or sitting too long, from gazing too long in a certain direction, or even from lying down or sleeping in the wrong position. One of the best things you can do for neck health is support the natural curve of your neck.
Normal head posture is with the head balanced over the shoulders with a nice “C” curve when looking at someone from the side. A head that sits too far forward or has its curve diminished can be painful due to muscular fatigue. Keeping your head over the shoulders during the day and a using proper neck support pillow at night can help to preserve the normal curve in your neck.
Here’s a good stretch to use if your head is forward on your shoulders. Pull your head back (like a turtle) without lifting the chin. Keep your chin tucked down and draw back as far as you comfortably can. Hold it for 3 seconds. Do these ten times a day.
If your neck is ever in a lot of pain, the first line of defense is to use an ice pack for up to 20 minutes at a time, a few times during the day. This will take the edge off, calm inflammation, and provide some relief until you can get chiropractic care.
For those who sit all day, you can reduce neck fatigue and pain by sitting in a chair with good back support, looking straight ahead at your monitor at eye level, and by using a headset or speakerphone. Have your reading material as close to eye level as possible and not flat on your desk. Stretch and walk around at least every 45 minutes.
If you stand all day and you have flat feet, you can have back and neck pain. Supportive shoe inserts called “orthotics” can help ease the pain of flat feet and support the back and neck.
It is best not to sleep on your stomach; sleep on your back or side. If you sleep on your back at all, use a neck support pillow. Doing neck stretches and strengthening exercises will help you prevent trouble.
For a good neck stretch, put your head slowly down in front, and then tilt it all the way back. Then rotate your neck by slowly turning it from side to side without straining. Do this slowly and stop if you have pain — soreness is ok but not pain.
For strengthening, press your forehead into your palms, resisting any forward motion with your hands. Then clasp your hands behind your head and press your head back – resisting any motion with your hands.
Here’s to your healthy, pain-free neck!