Neck pain is a very common complaint that usually occurs in the soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons), which are around the base of the neck where it joins in the spine. While neck pain is often a result of a specific condition such as arthritis, spinal issues, damage to the discs between the vertebrae or a traumatic injury, neck pain can also develop gradually over time because of our lifestyle habits, and it can seem as if there is no real reason for it. If this is the case for you, here are 7 simple tips to help you prevent neck pain from returning.
1. Improve your bedding
Sleeping on your back will enable your spine to relax, particularly if you can support your arms on each side with a pillow to reduce strain on the neck. Many people invest in adjustable beds so they can sleep at a slight angle. If you need to sleep on your side, your pillows should be relatively flat and certainly no higher than 6 inches. An ergonomic pillow is ideal as it keeps your neck and spine aligned in a natural position.
2. Change the way you use technology
Most of us use phones and mobile devices on a daily basis, whether it’s for work or in our spare time, but we don’t realise the strain we are putting on our neck by tilting our head down towards screens for long periods of time. Over time, this can lead to permanent damage so try reducing how often you use your phone and laptop, raising it to eye level and taking breaks. Consider using a hands-free device like a headset to prevent you from having to hold the phone up and tilt your head. If you use a computer at work, make sure your screen is at eye level.
3. Do regular neck exercises
You can strengthen your neck muscles by completing simple exercises for a few minutes each day.
4. Drink plenty of water
It’s important to stay hydrated for many reasons but particularly as the discs between the neck vertebrae are made largely of water. Staying hydrated will ensure these discs are strong and supple. The recommended daily amount of water is 8 glasses, but it’s best to drink this in small amounts throughout the day.
5. Make sure you’re carrying weight evenly
When carrying heavy items on a regular basis, such as bags or a briefcase, the weight is unevenly distributed which can strain the neck and shoulders. Try to keep your shoulders level when you carry items or consider using a backpack, which distributes weight more evenly.
6. Improve your posture
Poor posture can lead to neck pain over time as it strains the muscles and ligaments. The most common posture is to have the head and shoulders hunched forward as this places strain on the neck. In fact, shifting the head forwards just an inch increases the strain on the muscles and spine by as much as 10lbs.
7. Massage knots or pain trigger points
Trigger points are the knots that develop under the fascia tissue or in the muscle which causes us pain. In the neck, these trigger points usually develop around the lower vertebrae. Massaging these trigger points can relieve the tension and reduce the pain. You can do this yourself or see a professional masseuse or chiropractor.