Neck Pain: culprits, preventions and tips
By: Lori Hudson Bertrand D.C., R.N.
Does it ever seem that the more we fill our lives with deadlines, responsibilities and meetings, the more tension builds in our neck and shoulders? The truth is that the neck (cervical spine) is vulnerable to injury on a daily basis, but taking care of the muscles and joints that surround the spine can help avoid injuries and tightness in the future.
Poor posture, injuries from sports, lack of mobility within the joints and many other culprits can all lead to degenerative changes within the cervical spine. We are habitual beings by nature, meaning we tend to do the same thing in the same order day after day – stepping into the right pant leg first or consistently sitting crossed legged with the left over the right – we form habits. Often these habits develop unknowingly, but over time posture becomes altered, muscles tighten on one side, causing weaker muscles on the other. Pain and tension begins to set in, followed by limited range of motion. Headaches may develop and overall function starts to get comprised. When these symptoms form, the following tips can help relieve neck pain and tension.
Keep moving but restrict aggravating activities. By this I mean continue with normal daily activities while avoiding movements that cause sharp or radicular pain; still move the muscles within their normal degrees of motion to prevent further tightness and degeneration. DEFINE classes are a great way to move the muscles as well as strengthen the entire body!
Stretch, not only is it imperative to continue moving the muscles and joints, but also lengthening the affected areas will help keep the joints lubricated and the muscles functioning at a healthy state. DEFINE mind classes are a great way to stretch the muscles, increase flexibility while reducing stress and tension. Preform passive stretching at least 2-3 times a day, especially morning and evening to alleviate further muscle contraction. Ice is typically better than heat and should be utilized for about 15-20 minutes every hour depending on pain level.
While the above are quick points that can be utilized to relieve neck pain and tension, the pointers below are geared towards prevention.
Women especially carry a lot of stress in their neck and between their shoulders. It is estimated that roughly 90 percent of illnesses are related to stress. Some stress is unavoidable but often we place more on ourselves than what is necessary.
We tend to carry around more than we need to; big bags are great but there comes a point where the weight of the bag can get out of hand. Constantly lugging that extra weight in and out of the car and over the shoulder puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the spine and surrounding muscles. Not only should we pay attention to the weight of our bags but we should also try to switch shoulders and carry bags on the other side in order to keep the body balanced.
Think about how you sit at the desk. Are you leaning forward to look at the computer screen, putting enormous pressure on the joints and muscles? What about while driving? Pay attention to how your shoulders are positioned, or tension that can build while driving. Sofa time – it’s great to relax, but just pay attention to how you are positioned and the amount of time spent there.
Take frequent breaks
When sitting at the desk, remember to take frequent breaks. Try to get up at least once every hour to stretch, use the bathroom and clear the mind.
Because we spend so much time at the desk, it’s important to look at how your workspace is set up. Often times correcting where the computer is placed, how high the chair is set etc. can reduce tension.
The stronger and more conditioned the muscles are surrounding the spine, the less chance of injury and pain. Keeping muscles flexible helps to keep the joints moving and reduces the rate of degeneration.
Avoid stomach sleeping
Sleep is vital, but how we sleep can cause repercussions on joints and muscles, especially in and around the cervical spine. Stomach sleeping causes the head to be turned in one direction for hours, which causes shortened and tightened muscles.
Regular checkups will reduce further tightness in the neck and upper back.
As a chiropractor, neck pain is a common complaint that comes through the door several times a day, every day. Getting movement into the joints and muscles is vital for optimal health of the body. Paying attention to the body and keeping it conditioned can help it function at it absolute best.
DEFINE’s senior instructor and anatomy specialist, Lori Hudson Bertrand D.C., R.N. is a doctor in chiropractic and registered nurse. Her love for helping people through the education of anatomy and physiology of the human body drives her to continue to share her experiences and knowledge with others as they pursue their journey towards health and restoration!
Read more of Lori’s articles HERE
photography by: Christi Minter