Someone you love has probably dealt with neck pain. That problem is only getting worse and can come from a number of disorders and diseases. Some common medical conditions causing cervical or neck pain are degenerative disc disease, neck strain, neck injury, a herniated disc, a pinched nerve, etc. This pain can also come from poor positioning of the neck while sleeping with the head on a pillow and continuous sitting in front of a computer. Prevention of neck pain in the context of these activities should include neck strengthening, stretching, postural education, and compliance with at-home cervical traction.
Here are our top 6 daily tips for reducing neck pain:
- Strengthening and Neuromuscular re-education Exercises:
Many people who suffer from neck pain, also have weakness in their cervical stabilizer muscles. Getting them to activate and turn on properly is an effective tool for adding stability and decreasing pain.
- Apply Self-Manual Resistance: At sitting position place your head centered over your shoulders, press your forehead into your palms, using your palms to resist the pressure of your head. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds, release, and repeat three to five times. Now place your palms on the back of your head with your elbows out to the sides. Press your head back into your palms as you use your palms to resist the pressure of your head. Hold for 3-5 seconds, release, and then repeat three to five times.
- Chin Tucks: As you drive or type, pretend you are a turtle retracting your head into your shell. Keeping your chin level, bring your head back, flattening the curve in the back of your neck. Hold for a count of ten, release, and repeat 10 times.
- Scapular strengthening exercises:
Every inch forward, your head moves forward which doubles the amount of stress and strain on the spine. Improving your posture can have a dramatic positive impact on decreasing your neck pain. With poor posture, it is common for the scapular muscles (muscles in between the shoulder blades) to become weak and atrophied.
- Scapular Rotations:
- Place feet wider than shoulder width
- Place both extended arms on the ground
- Put right hand behind head
- While keeping legs straight, rotate right elbow up towards ceiling
- Pause for a second at the top
- Return to start position
Perform: 2 sets of 10 reps
- Sidelying Thoracic Spine Rotations
- Start by lying on right side with right knee flexed
- Rotate left arm towards the floor
- Pause for a second before returning to start position
Perform: 2 sets of 10 reps per side. Add weight to moving hand as needed
- Cervical Traction:
Major compression = Major pain. Cervical traction has been used by chiropractors and physical therapists for decades. Evidence has proven this to be a highly effective, non-invasive modality for treating neck pain, tension headaches, and reducing stress. Frequency is key to success with cervical traction as it is most effective when used for 10 - 15 minutes 3 - 4x a week. There is a brand new at-home cervical traction device called the Neck Hammock, which we highly recommend. Created by a licensed Physical Therapist, it's affordable ($49), portable (stores in your sock drawer or luggage when traveling), and very effective. Just be sure to set a timer, most users fall asleep in the device in just a few minutes.
- Rotation exercise:
Another effective way to decrease compression and to improve joint lubrication is through rotational movements. Every hour, drop your chin to your chest, then roll your neck to the left, back, to the right, and down again in a circular motion. Repeat five times, and then switch direction, starting with a roll to the right. Only perform half circles. Full circles sometimes can lead to facet impingement if swelling is already present.
- Sleeping Posture:
If you spend 7 - 8 hours every night sleeping in a poor position, what do you think that is going to do to your neck over time? The best pillow for you depends on your own preferences but generally, stomach sleepers should avoid sleeping on their stomach, but if they must, they need to use a soft pillow. Side sleepers go for a medium softness, also using a body pillow to keep the hips and shoulders in a healthy neutral position. Back sleepers typically need a firm pillow but this also depends on the curvature of their thoracic spine. Increased curve will require an increased thickness in their pillow.
- Avoid sitting:
Have you heard the expression: “sitting is the new smoking”? Well it's not far from the truth. We unfortunately live in a society where sitting for work is the new norm and it's creating an epidemic of problems, including: Neck Pain.
If you are a desk jockey, here are some tips that you can do to decrease your pain:
- Set an alarm for every hour to get up and walk around for 5 minutes. This will not only increase blood flow and mental clarity but will also stretch out all of those muscles that were stuck in a flexed position that’s pulling your head forward, and out of place.
- Kneel: If you have the ability to, bring in a very soft foam pad or pillow (we recommend the AirEx pad) and kneel in a lunge position. For example, your right leg will be bent at a 90 degree angle in front on you, while you are kneeling on your left knee. Every 5 minutes, switch. If your knees become uncomfortable, then you may return to a sitting position in the chair. The diagonal position places your spine in a neutral position, and actually makes it harder to get into a bad posture.
- Get a standing desk (with a step/stool). Standing is much better for your spine than sitting, but when you get lazy, your head can still drift forward, placing stress on your neck. Get a 6-12” step that you can place one foot on top of it at all times (kind of like the Captain Morgan pose). This goes back to putting your legs in a diagonal stance which is healthier for your spine.