7 Ways to Keep Your Neck Pain Under Control
Neck pain is one of the most common problems that we see here at West Pennant Hills Physiotherapy and Sports Injury Centre. Neck pain and stiffness can be caused by muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs or nerves. When the nerves are affected, it can also cause referred pain down the arm. Neck pain can also refer up into the head, causing headaches. Keep reading for a list of our top tips on how to relieve neck pain, and what to do when you start to experience any niggles.
1. Ensure your workstation is set up correctly
Correcting your desk set up will reduce the strain on your body and minimise pain in your neck and lower back. Especially now with a lot of us working from home, this is even more important. Your feet should be flat on the floor. Thighs should be parallel to the floor with your knees and hips bent between 90-120 degrees. Your chair should have a back rest, adjustable height, and lumbar support. If you don’t have a lumbar support you can place a small pillow or rolled up towel in the small of your back. A chair without armrests is ideal, to avoid having your arms propped up which can result in you slouching forward and having your shoulders hunched. Shoulders should be relaxed, with forearms parallel to the floor and wrists in a neutral position. The top of your computer monitor should be at eye level and slightly tilted. If you use a laptop, it is a good idea to invest in a wireless keyboard so that your screen can be in a better position to avoid you having to look down all the time.
Standing desks are another great option, however it is important to remember not to stand for hours on end. We like to recommend standing for 20 minutes, followed by 40 minutes of sitting, alternating in this pattern every hour. It’s a good idea to set a timer to remind yourself to change positions.
2. Replace your pillow
It is important that your pillow keeps your neck in neutral alignment, meaning that the natural curve of your neck is supported and maintained. A pillow that is too flat or too high is therefore not ideal. We like to recommend the use of a firm contour pillow, which is designed to provide extra support under your neck as you sleep.
3. Try a new sleeping position
Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach if you can, as this means your neck is placed in a rotated position for prolonged periods of time, causing strain on the joints and muscles. Sleeping on your back is ideal for your neck. If you prefer to sleep on your side, make sure your pillow is a good height to support the neck.
4. Perform regular stretching exercises for your neck muscles
Stretching needs to be performed to maintain flexibility in our muscles. When we sit all hunched in one position all day, the muscles tighten up and hold a lot of tension. Doing regular stretches can help prevent them from tightening up to the point where they cause pain.
5. Perform strengthening exercises for the upper body to help support the neck
Strengthening your upper body, particularly the muscles between the shoulder blades is essential in preventing neck pain. When we are weak between our shoulder blades, the muscles at the top of your shoulders (trapezius) and in your neck become overactive and overcompensate, meaning they become very tight and sore. By strengthening your upper back muscles, your neck will be better supported, and your overactive muscles will learn to switch off and not carry as much of the load. Speak to your physiotherapist about what strengthening exercises would be best for you.
6. Use heat packs
Heat packs are an excellent method of pain relief that is easy to do at home. The heat helps to relax your muscles, and promote blood flow to the area to help with healing. Apply the heat pack for approximately 20 minutes, some time before you go to bed.
7. Watch your posture
Poor posture can cause neck pain by placing extra strain on the muscles and ligaments that support the neck. A common poor posture position we see is slouching forward. This is exacerbated by the amount of time we spend looking at our phones or at a computer screen that isn’t the right height.
Did you know that for every inch the head is held forward, an additional 4.5kg of force is placed through the neck. Therefore if you’re bent over looking down at your phone, you are placing nearly 23kg of extra force on your neck! If you need to look at your phone, you are better off holding it up higher closer to eye level, to avoid slouching forward.
If you are experiencing neck pain and would like some more information or physiotherapy treatment, give us a call on 9875 3760, or email us firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be more than happy to help!