Neck pain is a common but poorly treated problem that may have potentially dangerous clinical outcomes. To save yourself from it, you need to prevent it. But, preventing neck pain is a lifetime endeavor. Lifestyle changes to avoid neck pain (such as quitting smoking or losing weight) take commitment and patience. But, as long as you work towards them, your hard work pays off and you experience no episodes of stubborn, discomforting pain.
Want to know how you can bid adieu to the discomfort in the neck? Read on!
1 . Maintain good posture
Poor posture (head-and-shoulders-forward) can cause neck pain by straining muscles and ligaments that support the neck. To maintain good posture:
- Keep your shoulders back and your chest out.
- Sit or stand with your shoulders directly over your hips and your head straight.
- Monitor your chin. If your chin is more than a 5 finger breadths away from your chest, that means that you are arching your neck. If it is less than 3 finger breadths away from your chest, it means you are flexing your neck.
- Maintain good shoulder strength. Good muscle tone, especially between the shoulder blades (where the rhomboid muscles reside) is critical for preventing neck pain.
2 . Protect your neck when you sleep
Your sleeping posture is as much important as your daytime posture. So, make sure you’re sleeping in the best position. Skip sleeping on your stomach. It goes tough on your back and neck. Instead, sleep on your side or back.
Sometimes, all it takes to prevent neck pain is a good pillow. Go for one that molds to the shape of your neck and head and doesn’t push your neck out of alignment. Memory foam pillows and feather pillows are good options.
3 . Maintain good ergonomics at work
Don’t use your neck as a crutch at the workplace. Putting the strain on your shoulders can cause the pain. Whether you’re on the computer or giving a presentation in the meeting room, consciously relax your shoulders. To maintain good ergonomics at work:
- Adjust your computer. If the monitor is too high, you’ll be looking up for hours. If your computer is too low, you’ll be looking down for long. These sustained postures are likely to cause pain in your neck.
- Draw your arms in close to your body when you’re sitting at the computer or a table.
- Use Armrests. No matter how strong your shoulder and neck muscles are, they need required rest. Armrests are an important way to keep the weight of your arms from constantly pulling on the neck muscles.
- Adjust your chair. Make sure it is at the right height. Always, have a couple of inches of space between the back of the knees and your chair.
4 . Lift heavy items safely
A common mistake people make is carrying a heavy purse or luggage on one side of their body. This uneven load can cause your shoulders to go uneven, straining your neck muscles. If carrying weight is a necessity on the go, consider using a backpack that distributes weight evenly across both of your shoulders.
5 . Exercise your neck muscles
If you want to prevent neck pain, consider incorporating some easy exercises and stretches into your routine. Side-to-Side Head Rotation is a great place to start. To prevent neck pain through the day:
- Roll your neck.
- Try a Neck Turn*.
- Do Head Tilts*.
- Use Shoulder Circles*.
- Consider Neck Lifts*.
- Take frequent breaks from sitting for hours.
6 . Use smartphone smartly
Texting or looking down at your cell phone for long puts excessive strain on your neck. To avoid neck strain from texting, raise the phone to eye level, minimize texting time, or rest your hands and device on a pillow.
If your profession requires you to spend a lot of time talking on the phone, don’t tuck the phone between your ear and shoulder. Use a speakerphone or headset instead.
7 . Practice healthy habits
You may not realize that your body weight affects your neck as well. When you gain weight, your arms get heavier and your shoulder blades spread apart. All of these changes increase the likelihood of developing neck pain. Since your spine is responsible for carrying the weight of your body, being at a healthy weight will help you take good care of your spine and neck. Apart from watching your weight:
- Stop smoking. According to a study, spinal discs can degenerate very rapidly in smokers. In fact, a smoker’s spine does not heal quickly after an injury or surgery as well.
- Reduce your stress and tension. Tense muscles in the neck and shoulder can lead to neck pain. Find a few effective ways to reduce your stress (keeping a journal, indulging in hobbies, talking to a friend, or brisk-walking).
- Yet another reason to drink plenty of water during the day is to hydrate the discs—the spongy structures that lie between the vertebrae in your neck. Since these discs are made up of mostly water, staying well hydrated will help keep your neck stay strong.
* Name of a neck exercise.