If you have ever woken up with a sore neck, you may be thinking that the pain was caused by an awkward sleeping position. Though this may add to the cause of the pain, it is not the sole reason. Your neck is made up of seven of the body’s smallest vertebrae and its main job is to hold and support your head, which is roughly 10 to 12 pounds. The neck can easily manage this weight when the head is appropriately positioned, which is slightly tilted back allocating most of the weight over the spine. However the average individual tilts their head slightly forward, placing more of the weight on the neck. According to a recent study, flexing your head forward to scan your phone amplifies the weight load your neck has to carry to 27 pounds. As you can imagine, the more weight load placed on the neck, the higher risk you have for neck pain.
How to prevent neck pain
According to Harvard Health, the best way to avoid neck pain is to carry your head so that your neck carries the least amount of weight. The following are some tips that can help prevent neck pain.
- Avoid leading with your chin– check your side profile when you are walking or standing. Avoid thrusting your head out.
- Elevate your work level– adjust your workstation to accommodate proper posture. Laptops, tablets, cell phones, and books, should be brought to eye level to decrease the amount of pressure on your spine.
- Support your lower back– the body works synergistically. Supporting the lower back will help to alleviate unnecessary stress on the neck.
- If you wear glasses, keep your prescription up to date– individuals who have an out of date prescription tend to lean their heads too far forward or backward in order to see.
- Avoid using too many pillows– too many pillows can decrease your neck’s range of motion.
- Make sure you have enough calcium & vitamin D- calcium and vitamin D play an important role in bone health. The recommended intake is 1,200 mg of dietary calcium, and 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily.
Increasing strength to alleviate neck pain
One of the best things you can do to help prevent and alleviate neck pain is to strengthen your core muscles. This includes the muscle groups of your abdomen, buttocks, and back. When your core muscles are weak, your neck and shoulder muscles have to overcompensate and become overworked. Participating in regular weight bearing activities such as walking, and tai chi can also help prevent bone loss in the spine.
The following are some exercises to support your spine and prevent neck pain:
- Chair stand- sit in a chair with feet hip-width apart. Tighten abdomen muscles, exhale and slowly stand up. Slowly sit down.
- Single leg raise- Sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor. Slowly lift one leg as high as you comfortably can. Return to starting position.
- Heel raise- Stand with feet hip-width apart. Tighten abdomen muscles. Lift heels up while standing on the balls of your feet. Slowly lower heels.
*All exercises should be repeated 8-10 times.
These preventive measures along with stretching, and building core strength can go a long way for alleviating neck pain. However if you are experiencing severe or persistent neck pain accompanied with any numbness, weakness, or tingling it is important to see a healthcare professional. The chiropractor offers can work with you on your posture, strengthen the appropriate muscles that support your spine, and create a treatment plan to alleviate your neck pain.