Neck pain can compromise your range of motion and interfere with your daily life. Even turning your head to answer a question or check traffic becomes a painful experience. Most cases of neck pain resolve on their own in a few days or, at most, a few weeks, but it’s best to avoid the pain altogether.
At Apex Medical Center, we’ve put together a list of six of the most common causes of neck pain and how to prevent them from interfering with your quality of life.
Awkward Sleep Position
Sleeping in a kinked position or with too soft of a pillow can strain the muscles and connective tissues of your neck. Invest in a quality, supportive pillow and avoid sleeping in less-than-ideal places, such as in your car, on airplanes, or on the sofa or recliner. If you do need to doze as you travel, buy a travel neck pillow that supports the soft tissues of your neck.
Smartphones, tablets, and computers make life convenient but seriously affect your neck health. When you’re hunched over, looking down, or slouching forward much of the day, your cervical spine suffers.
To prevent the pain of “tech neck,” check your posture as you use your devices. Use a screen at eye level, rather than in your lap. If you have a job that puts you in front of a computer all day, take regular breaks to get up and walk around. Perform neck stretches regularly to loosen up the area and keep it from stiffening too much.
Smoking and Nicotine Use
Yes, believe or not, smoking and other nicotine use are common aggravators of neck pain. The easiest way to avoid this source of neck pain is to make every effort to quit — or never start to begin with.
Osteoarthritis is a common consequence of aging and a common source of neck pain. Over time, the cartilage that cushions the space between bones — for your neck, these are the vertebrae in your upper spine — wears down, causing bone-on-bone contact and subsequent pain.
While you can’t prevent osteoarthritis, you can ease the discomfort it causes. Keep your neck moving and active by frequently rolling it side-to-side gently. This helps keep the area lubricated and promotes circulation. Minimize inflammation that contributes to pain from osteoarthritis by maintaining a healthy diet and moderating alcohol intake.
Poor posture contributes to neck pain. When you fail to stand or sit with your head, shoulders, and hips in balance, it can put excess stress on your joints — including your cervical spine. Leading with your head in a forward-head position or keeping it unnaturally pulled back also lets long-term stress and stiffness set in. The muscles around your neck tense up, causing pain and discomfort.
Concentrate on standing and sitting in a position that keeps your head positioned over your torso. If you’re not sure your posture is correct, sign up for a postural analysis at Apex Medical Center. The staff can offer exercises to help realign your cervical spine or may refer you to a physical therapist or trainer.
When you’re under serious stress — whether it’s from bills, relationship concerns, or work deadlines — your neck suffers. It’s natural to tense the muscles surrounding your neck and shoulders when you’re under duress. This can lead to chronic pain and tightness.
The best way to prevent stress from compromising your neck health is to learn to manage it. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, delegating work, and self-care — such as regular massages and baths — can help you relax and give your neck a break.
For help with neck pain and more serious causes, like whiplash or other injuries, make an appointment to see one of our experienced doctors at Apex Medical Center.