Is no amount of yoga, rest, or expensive spinal adjustments from your chiropractor doing the trick to nip your neck pain in the bud?
While stretching, strengthening, and realigning are critical steps to maintaining good neck health, it’s the small (bad) habits throughout the day and night that could be erasing all that good work.
Are you making any of these neck pain mistakes?
Sleeping with a thick pillow – a thick, ultra-plush pillow may feel heavenly under your head at first, but if it’s too tall, it could be the source of your neck pain. When you sleep on your side or back, it’s crucial that your cervical spine (the neck) remains in a neutral, horizontal position. Thick pillows tend to raise the head up at a slight angle actually adding pressure and stress to the tissues in the neck as you sleep through the night.
Carrying bags on the same shoulder – whether it’s your purse, a diaper bag, even a backpack filled with heavy books, if you tend to carry a heavy bag on the same shoulder day in and day out, you could be doing serious damage to your neck. The constant tug and pull of a heavy bag on the shoulder and neck area not only strains the soft tissues there but makes the opposite side of the spine work overtime to compensate. Muscle inflammation, pain, tension, even pinched nerves can result.
Holding your phone down below – are you constantly looking down to text on your smartphone or skim Instagram? This common practice is resulting in a phenomenon known as “text neck” or more formally, Forward Head Syndrome. Researchers have found that the constant craning of the neck and forward tilting of the head during smartphone use adds pounds and pounds of undue pressure to the spine resulting in cascading neck and back issues.
Cradling your smartphone between your ear and shoulder – can’t find your earbuds or headset? Hate speakerphone? You might want to think again about taking calls while multitasking. It seems so easy to cradle your phone between your shoulder and ear for a few minutes to keep your hands free for other tasks while you talk, but this repetitive bending and stiffening of the neck can seriously strain the cervical spine and adjacent muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Frequent gum chewing – think smoking is the only bad habit you need to kick for the sake of your health? Turns out prolonged gum chewing can actually irritate the jaw, causing the muscles around it to stiffen and even spasm. This added strain can lead to radiating head and neck pain.
10 Tips for Managing Neck Pain
Don’t miss this quick guide for treating neck pain and preventing it from coming back:
Assess your digital device use and make sure to raise monitors up to eye level when using a computer and hold your smartphone in front of your face when texting, using apps, etc.
Ease neck pain with a regular massage at home using a portable neck massager; target trigger points in the neck and shoulders
Avoid carrying heavy bags, purses, and so forth on the same shoulder each day
Alternate the application of cold packs and heating pads on inflamed and tense neck muscles to relax them and alleviate inflammation and pain
Practice better posture habits like not slouching, standing more and sitting less, and not craning your neck or tilting your head forward when sitting at your desk
Wear a cervical neck brace to provide sturdy head support during recovery from a pinched nerve, neck pull, or another similar injury
Exercise regularly to stretch and strengthen the neck (try practices like yoga or tai chi to start)
Facilitate better quality sleep by assessing your pillow and mattress – do they support the natural curvature and neutral alignment of your spine?
Avoid excessive alcohol use as falling asleep while intoxicated can cause you to stay in uncomfortable positions that compromise the neck instead of repositioning like you normally would
Learn coping tactics that help prevent neck pain associated with built-up stress levels (i.e. coloring, meditating, aromatherapy)