How to avoid your neck pain becoming a pain in the neck

by | May 29, 2020 | Neck Pain, Self Help | 0 comments

Neck pain is a common complaint 

You probably don’t give much thought to your neck unless something goes wrong and you start feeling neck pain. The neck is a very under-appreciated part of the body and it works hard all the time you are awake and upright. It has to be strong enough to support the not inconsiderable weight of your head at 4.5-5kg on average. It also has to be flexible enough to allow your head to move freely, to tilt, turn and nod.

Neck pain is a common complaint and on its own is rarely a sign of a more serious problem. Most neck problems are likely to be the result of something we have done to strain the structures and soft tissues.

Your neck is made up of vertebrae, spinal bones that extend from the inside of the skull to the upper torso where they connect to the rest of the spine. The top two vertebrae form a pivot joint which allows for most of the movement of your head. In-between the neck vertebrae are discs which act as shock absorbers.

However, most of the structure and support in your neck comes from soft tissues, the muscles and fascia. There are 26 muscles in your neck alone, with further muscles connecting into the area from your head, spine and torso. The soft tissues in your neck are responsible for head movement, stabilising your upper body, assisting in swallowing and breathing, and much more.

Given the range of support and movement your neck provides, it’s not surprising that it is susceptible to injury and strain. Common injuries can be from a fall, sports accident, or whiplash such as in a car accident. However, the most common causes of neck pain are poor posture, overuse, and bad pillows.

It is easy to spend many hours locked in position at your computer, to the point that you almost feel that you are being sucked into the screen. This can be exacerbated by looking at tablets, smart phones, or reading books, all of which mean you are looking down for prolonged periods.

Remembering the weight of your head, any of these activities mean that the soft tissues in your neck are braced to hold your head in a forward position. Over time your fascia will start to adapt to help your already overstrained muscles by creating areas of denser tissue. These form not only around your muscles, meaning they are effectively stuck in spasm, but also around your nerves, sometimes compromising their function and causing what is commonly called a pinched nerve.

Resulting symptoms caused by neck restrictions include pain that worsens if you hold your head in certain positions, eg working at a computer, on the phone or driving; muscle tightness or spasms; difficulty moving your head in certain directions; headaches; and sometimes spreading to other areas affecting breathing or your arms and hands.

 Simple ways to help your neck

Remembering that your body only develops these symptoms as a result of responding to what you do most, ie staying fixed in one position for hours, there are simple ways that you can start to undo the restrictions that are causing your neck pain.

  • Move regularly – don’t stay hunched over your computer for hours, instead get up and move either by going for a walk or stretch your neck and shoulders. If it helps, put a timer on to remind you to get up regularly.
  • Avoid tucking your phone between your ear and shoulder when you talk. If you are on the phone a lot, try using speakerphone or a headset instead.
  • Check your posture – when you are working, check in with how you are sitting. The chances are you will start rolling forwards as you work, so make a point of regularly rolling your shoulders back gently and bringing your head back upright.
  • Replace your pillow – you should have a pillow that supports your neck and keeps your head level with the rest of your body, and you can now buy pillows specifically designed for back, side or front sleepers.
  • Look after your fascia – starting a programme of regular myofascial stretches and exercises will help to gradually return free movement to your soft tissues. Just 20 minutes a day can make a big difference to your fascial health.

 You can find out more about myofascial self-help exercises in our Living Pain Free online programme.

 

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest From The Blog

What are Trigger Points

What are Trigger Points

“A highly irritable localised spot of exquisite tenderness in a nodule in a palpable taut band of muscle” (Travell & Simons 1993) This may sound familiar if you have ever found tender spots when massaging or pressing on an area to relieve tension or pain. What you...

Every breath you take

Every breath you take

A closer look at our breathing Without getting too nerdy or technical, it’s sometimes interesting to understand a bit more about how our bodies work. In this article we’re going to have a look at breathing and how it happens without us even thinking about it. Every...

What is visceral manipulation?

What is visceral manipulation?

Understanding how visceral restrictions can cause referred pain The viscera are the internal organs of the body. They are contained within the body cavities and include the digestive tract, liver, kidneys, lungs and heart. Each viscera is contained within its own...