Let me ask you some questions that may reveal some common causes of neck pain:
(if you find yourself nodding your head to any of these – keep reading!)
- During the night, do you wake up to find yourself sleeping on your stomach? Or do you get comfortable by sleeping on your stomach?
- Do you spend a lot of time on the ‘small-screen’ i.e. mobile/ipad?
- Do you carry a heavy bag on one side of your body? Or hold onto a heavy briefcase in one hand?
Now more than likely, if you have neck pain, you would have answered yes to one of the those questions.
Over the years, nearly every single person that has walked into our clinics has answered ‘yes’ to one of those questions.
So, let’s take a look at each one of those everyday issues in greater detail and then talk about what physio can do for neck pain.
- Too much (small) screen time
The average weight of an adult head is around 5kg. When you spend excessive time with your head looking down, this ‘bowling ball’ starts to pull on your neck muscles and over time will cause spinal joint stiffness. It is this joint stiffness that then causes headaches and other neck pain.
So, instead of spending lots of time looking down, lift the ipad/iphone up to the level of your chin so you are looking horizontally as opposed to downwards.
- Your daily bag
One of the main reasons why develop overactivity in our shoulders muscles is because we carry a heavy bag or briefcase on one side of our body.
Your trapezius (shoulder) muscles, are heavily involved in this task and when they are overactivated, they pull on the neck and cause neck pain and stiffness.
The best way to counteract this is to reduce the weight of the bag, or to switch the sides you carry it on periodically. This will significantly reduce any built up tension on one side by sharing the load.
- Your Sleeping position.
This could potentially be one of the most critical things you do if you have neck pain, or alternatively, if you want to prevent neck pain.
If you are a stomach sleeper, you are a neck pain case waiting to happen. Spending 6+ hours with your head turned in a rotated position is one of the worst things you can do for your neck. Yes, I’ve heard it all before, it’s comfortable, you can’t sleep in any other position etc. But take it from me, if you want to reduce your neck pain and headaches, then get out of this position!
I advocate either back or side-sleeping, with a supportive pillow such as a memory foam type. Remember to stay away from feather-based pillows – they are the worse!
Check out this video Nick, our practice principal, did with Tim:
So what can physio do for neck pain?
Most importantly, a good physiotherapist should be able to assess the exact biomechanical cause of your neck pain and put together an individualized plan to not only alleviate your pain but stop it from coming back.
One of the most common things we see in clients with neck pain is that they get symptomatic relief with massages etc, but often, they do not address the underlying reasons as to why their neck is getting sore in the first place, and so far too often, the symptoms persist once they return to that particular activity.
A thorough plan of attack, which includes elimination of causative factors and a strength program is vital for long term elimination of pain and stiffness!
For more ways and advice on how to ease your neck and shoulder pain, we have created a free resource, email us at:
[email protected] to find out more!