OCTOBER 18, 2017

by Newell Estes

Neck pain can feel sometimes like you are literally carrying the world on your shoulders. It tends to be a condition that slowly gets worse overtime. It is also heavily influenced by our habits. Things like how much we stand in front of computer, or use our phone or how long we drive make the problem slowly worse.

The two main causes of neck pain:

When people have really bad neck pain it is usually because:

  1. They spend way too much time with their head looking down, creating bad posture or
  2. Because they have had a direct injury, like a car accident or a fall.

There are things that can definitely help, however, there are also things that make the problem worse and in some cases stop the healing process.

4 Common things that make neck pain worse

Here are the top things we recommend you stop doing:

Crack your own neck

Although you might feel like your neck is very tight and it just needs a “pop” to feel better, we recommend against it.  When your neck pops on its own, it’s considered to have too much joint laxity. It’s a sign that there is too much elasticity and not enough support on the structures that make up the cervical spine. It lacks proper stability for the discs that are on the spine. Moving the neck with force in a non-specific way can make the problem worse over-time.

The more laxity there is on the neck the more likelihood and severity of neck pain. A clinical study published in The Spine Journal found high correlation between people that have joint laxity with disc degeneration of the cervical spine and chronic neck pain.

Looking down on your phone

This is something that now makes solving a neck issue extremely challenging. Even if you are doing therapy and the necessary things to deal with your neck pain, when you spend hours on end looking down at your phone your neck curvature is bound to suffer and therefore signal pain.

The more hour s you spend on the phone the more detrimental changes you will have on your cervical spine.

Try to limit the time on your phone and if you need to use it, hold the screen at eyesight height.

How much weight is your spine carrying when you are looking down?

Prolonged Sitting

If your job requires prolonged hours of sitting down in front of a computer set up an alarm to take “standing up” or even better “walking breaks”. The more severe your neck pain is the more frequent breaks you should take.

Improper sleeping position

If you like to sleep on your back:
Holding your neck up with support might feel like it provides relief, however, using big pillows puts your neck in a flexed “looking down” posture. Creating this position for your neck will lead to more pain. It moves the head even more anteriorly which leads to bigger stress on your joints. It might be difficult to lay your head all the way down. You can use a cervical pillow to help create the right support.

If you’re a side sleeper:
Make sure your pillow is thick enough to accommodate the width of your shoulders in order to maintain the neck in a straight, neutral position. More importantly, you should avoid sleeping in the “fetal position” with your chin tucked to your chest. Sleeping with your neck bent to one side or in a forward flexed position can put pressure on the nerves that exit from the neck and down your arm, which could lead to numbness and pain.

Statistics show that approximately 75% of adults will suffer from neck pain in their lifetime. As you can see, if you reassess some of your daily habits, maybe we can prevent the pain from worsening over time.