Describing something as a “pain in the neck” is a great way to communicate your disapproval of a situation. Why? Because neck pain is something that most people will experience at one point in their life.
The neck is basically a collection of sensitive vertebrae holding up a heavy skull. It’s like trying to balance a golf ball on a stick of spaghetti. Though the spine has a certain amount of strength, and the cervical discs between your vertebrae can soak up the shock of movement, any tiny change in the way that you hold your posture can lead to pain or stiffness.
Turning your head too quickly, or holding your neck at the wrong angle when you’re typing on your computer could lead to abnormalities and inflammation that leave you struggling with a serious amount of pain. What’s more, some people suffer from neck pain as a result of overuse, injury from a fall, or even whiplash.
The factors that cause neck pain are obviously quite varied. Following, we’re going to take a look at some of the most common, and easy-to-fix causes of neck pain – so that you can start living a more comfortable life in no time!
Stress Is Such a Pain in the Neck:
What do you do when you feel stressed or overwhelmed? Most of us turn to huge doses of coffee, or caffeine stimulants to push our adrenals and force ourselves to keep moving forward even though our bodies beg us to stop and slow down.
Stress has a physical effect on your body. When you experience anxiety – you put your body through long-term extensive stress, where your brain places your entire system in “fight or flight” mode. When you’re in this state of panic, your body is releasing hormones that cause muscles to tense up and generate a feeling of overall unpleasantness.
It probably comes as no surprise that this constant state of tension contributes to neck pain. While not everyone will respond to anxiety with neck discomfort – many will experience some degree of pain that ranges all the way from mildly irritating, to completely debilitating.
One of the biggest problems with stress and neck pain is the mindset that people with anxiety often have. While many people experience muscle tension in their neck when they’re stressed – those who suffer from anxiety are more prone to focusing on this tight sensation. Those with anxiety are more likely to unintentionally fixate on negative sensations – and the same neck pain that we all feel can end up seeming more severe than it would without anxiety.
If stress seems to be the primary problem that’s causing your neck pain, it’s time to find some ways to relax and let the anxiety simply drain away. While you can always take medication to relieve aches and pains, the unfortunate truth is that stress-based pain will keep coming back for as long as you fail to find a solution for it.
Try a couple of the following techniques, and you might find that your pain simply starts to dissolve by itself:
- Massage: One of the best way to reduce muscle pains and tension – massage is fantastic for helping you to relax and easing strains in the body. While self-massage is generally a good place to start – particularly if you can’t run off for a professional session in the middle of your work day – paying for someone generally gives you a higher level of expertise. A professional massage therapist can help to push some of the tension out of your body that has been contributing to neck pain, back pain, and other discomfort.
- Hot showers or baths: Just as touch is soothing to sore muscles, heat can also help to relieve tension and banish unwanted pain. A hot bath is generally ideal as you can lie down and allow the water to wash over you without a second thought. However, a hot shower can work too if you simply stand there long enough for the muscles in your neck to start soaking up that healing heat.
- Exercise: Finally, if it’s not too painful, some gentle exercise can help to improve muscle flexibility and relieve excess tension. After all, if you’ve used all your energy in a run – then you haven’t got enough left to keep your muscles tense and straining.
Too Much Device Danger
Take a quick look around you – there’s no denying that technology has changed the world as we know it – from updating our solutions for communication, to adapting the way that we share information or find out way in life (Google maps, anyone?)
The average person is glued to their devices – whether that device is a smartphone that they carry with them wherever they go, a tablet, or even your desktop computer. In fact, you’ll be using a device to read this article right now! Think about the way that you hold your body when you’re reading something or writing a letter for work. If you’re slumped forward with rounded shoulders, then you’re placing additional pressure on your back and neck – placing yourself at risk of a condition commonly known as “text neck“. As you round the upper back, the neck and head juts forward – in contrast to the alignment of your spine.
Here’s what happens when you sit at a slump:
- The forward pull of your head weight places extra strain on the lower vertebrae in your neck – contributing to issues like degenerative disc disease or other neck problems.
- This slumped posture causes the muscles in your upper back to overwork in an attempt to counterbalance against gravity.
- The position of your body is accompanied by shoulders that press forward – feeding into your neck issue and causing shoulder pain at the same time.
So how can you solve the problem? Make sure that you’re set up properly for whatever device you’re trying to view. If you’re reading a text – hold your phone at eye level. If you’re writing at work, keep your head in a neutral position with your monitor at eye level. While you’re sitting, your feet should rest comfortably against the floor, and your knees should be at the same level as your hips.
Standing Tall Makes a Difference
Posture refers to the measures you take to fight back against gravity on a daily basis. It refers to the way that you hold your body when you’re sitting, standing, or even lying down – and people with good posture often need to work to hold their body in a way that places the least amount of stress on the supporting muscles and ligaments throughout the body.
Importantly, having bad posture doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re lazy. Across the world, weight issues are becoming increasingly common, and weight gain can also change the way that our muscles and skeletons support themselves. We’re also a lot less active than we used to be – which can lead to an increased risk of diseases.
Good posture should always involve:
- Keeping joints and bones in the right alignment so that muscles are used properly
- Decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces
- Preventing the abnormal placement of the spine
- Preventing fatigue by ensuring that muscles are used more effectively
- Preventing overuse and strain problems
- Reducing muscular pain and aches
The way that you hold yourself depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
For instance, when you’re sitting, you will need to keep your head straight – don’t tilt it up or down to read something. Keep your shoulders back and focus on keeping your posture as relaxed as possible with your feet against the floor. Don’t try to keep your back straight, and look for support for your arms if you’re typing something.
When you’re standing, your shoulders should be aligned and pushed back. Use the muscles in your abdomen to keep your body as straight as possible and bend your knees slightly to alleviate the amount of pressure on your hips. Try to use quality shoes that can provide extra support too. Don’t stick your chest out, and don’t wear high heels often – no matter how great they look.
Neck Pain and A Good Night’s Sleep
When you’re sleeping, you should do your best to use a firm mattress that provides plenty of support. Reduce the amount of curving in your spine by using numerous pillows when you need to – and upgrading your mattress. After all, there are few things more worth your investment than a good night’s sleep. Some people find that they sleep better with a pillow between their legs for support – and you should always avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this causes pressure against the cervical spine.
Many people attempt to sleep with a stack of pillows under their head – because they’re convinced that the more pillows they have, the more comfortable they will be. However, a large number of pillows (more than one), can cause your neck to bend unnaturally. If you find yourself waking up on the wrong side of the bed every morning, then you should consider changing your sleeping habits, or trying a new pillow. For instance, you should look to use a pillow that keeps your cervical spine in as neutral a position as possible – meaning that you keep that natural curve in your back.
Wondering what kind of pillow you should try? Fortunately, there are a number of options, and what works best for you will depend on the cause of your neck problems and your sleeping preferences. For instance:
- A lot of people discover that they suffer from less pain in their neck when they lie on their back with their head supported by a flat or orthopaedic pillow that offers a deeper depression in the middle where the head is supposed to rest.
- Some people find that support with a pillow that is designed to keep their neck steady when they lie on their side is more comfortable.
- Some people with particularly significant back and neck problems benefit from sitting in a recliner or on an adjustable bed where the top part of their body can be positioned at a slight incline.
When it comes to spine health, sleeping on your back is generally the best way to let your entire back and neck rest comfortably during the night. Some people who suffer from regular neck and back problems find that it is helpful to sleep on their back – carefully placing a pillow under each arm. This means that the strain is removed from the neck.
The Benefits of Regular Massage
If you suffer from neck pain – the worst thing you can do is just ignore it. Failing to stretch out the muscles or indulge in a little self-massage from time to time could leave you with some serious problems when you approach a professional massage therapist and ask for help.
While regular massage therapy can help to keep your entire body free of pain by promoting circulation and reducing tension throughout the muscles- you need to maintain a regular schedule and look after yourself in the meantime. Along with relieving neck pain, massage on a regular basis can keep your joints limber which improves flexibility and posture, increases your range of motion, encourages relaxation, and relieves stress.
For a little self-massage in between professional sessions, try the following steps:
- Find the sore spot in your neck with your fingers, and push into the knot – using gentle, yet firm pressure.
- You might find that the massage hurts initially, but persist so long as the pain isn’t too significant.
- Turn your head slightly in the direction opposite to the pain, and bend your head as though you are trying to touch your shoulder with your chin.
- Keep repeating the above steps until the pressure starts to dissipate.