We have this 10- to 12-pound bowling ball, called the head, on the top of our bodies. This bowling ball is held up by a weak structure, called the neck, that isn’t designed to handle heavy strain.
It’s no wonder that so many people suffer from neck pain.
Neck pain is most commonly caused by the gradual weakening of the intrinsic muscles in the neck area. Intrinsic muscles are the ones that you don’t see in the mirror but they have a very important purpose – stabilizing the spine.
As I discussed in a previous post, these muscles are often weakened by forward head posture, which happens when the head drifts forward as we stare at computer monitors, look down at our mobile devices or hunch over the steering wheel.
Gradual wear and tear on the neck joints and muscles can also cause osteoarthritis, which can result in neck pain.
Degenerative conditions, herniated disks and pinched nerves are also common. If you notice neck pain accompanied by numbness, tingling, loss of strength or pain shooting down the arm, you should see a specialist right away.
Of course, we also experience neck pain from trauma that we can’t control, including auto accidents and falls. This can cause whiplash as the head is jerked backward and forward, causing the soft tissues in the neck to be stretched and strained.
Mom always told us to stand up straight and sit up straight. And Mom, in her infinite wisdom, was absolutely right about what we can do to feel better.
Make believe there’s a rope attached to the top of your head that pulls you towards the sky. This will help you keep your earholes in a straight vertical line with the tips of your shoulders. When you look at someone from the side, it’s easy to see when that person is carrying their head forward.
A chiropractor or physical therapist can show you a series of neck strengthening exercises, such as chin tucks, shoulder blade (scapulae) squeezes and others, that can help you strengthen your neck muscles and prevent the gradual weakening that causes neck pain.
If you sit in front of a computer all day, it’s important to optimize your workstation ergonomically. In other words, make sure everything is designed in a way that suits the natural movement of the human body.
Make sure your monitor is at eye level. Your keyboard and armrests should be at a comfortable height that doesn’t cause your elbows to drop too far. Use an office chair that supports the curvature of your back. All of these things will help you avoid neck pain.
Finally, make sure you invest in a good pillow. Good pillows cost money, but when you think about how much time is spent using pillows, they’re definitely worth the investment.
Instead of pillows with built-in holes or curves for the head, I recommend pillows that form to the head and neck. Remember, your pillow should support your neck, too.
The pillow should be the right thickness to keep the head aligned with the neck, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The right pillow for a 6-4, 250-pound linebacker won’t be the right pillow for his 5-4, 115-pound wife. Invest in a good pillow that’s suited to your body.
At Natural Healthcare Center, we take a holistic approach to diagnosing and treating neck pain. Depending on your specific situation, we may recommend chiropractic care, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture and other forms of treatment. If you’re experiencing chronic neck pain, schedule an appointment so we can help you feel better, function better and live longer.