Neck pain is often linked to something as simple as using the wrong pillow. But it may also result from a more complex issue such as osteoarthritis, herniated disc, or compressed nerve.
Dr. John S. Michels is a pain management specialist with an award-winning medical practice in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. He provides customized nonsurgical therapies for treatment-resistant headaches, painful nerve injuries, degenerative disc disease, and other chronic pain issues that reduce your mobility and quality of life.
Read what Dr. Michels says about neck pain and the daily habits that can worsen your discomfort.
Whether you’re relaxing at home, conquering your latest work challenge, or sweating hard for your favorite sport, your neck (cervical spine) sees a lot of action during your daily routine.
Your neck is the most mobile portion of the spine and has a complex structure of muscles, bones, joints, tendons, blood vessels, and nerves packed into a space about 5 inches long.
It’s strong enough to hold your 12-pound head in place and safely connects your spinal cord and thus your brain to the rest of your body.
The complexity and mobility of your cervical spine and its constant involvement in everyday life make it especially vulnerable to injury and chronic diseases such as osteoarthritis that may eventually make even the slightest movement painful.
Numerous bad habits can cause or worsen neck pain. The most common include:
Practicing good posture when sitting, standing, or moving provides the spinal stability and muscle support a healthy neck requires.
Poor posture, on the other hand, causes uneven and unnecessary wear on spinal discs, joints, and ligaments, increasing your risk of early degenerative changes or strain associated with spinal misalignment.
If you’re having problems with posture-related neck or back pain, Dr. Michels may recommend a physical therapy program that includes a posture evaluation and one-on-one training. Yoga and tai chi, which emphasize proper spinal alignment, can also help develop good posture.
Walking, cycling, and other cardiovascular exercise improves circulation and provides healthy blood flow to your spinal structures. Routines that include flexibility and strengthening workouts help keep the muscles supporting your shoulders, upper back, chest, and neck healthy.
Keep your lower back fit with exercises focused on strengthening your abs/core muscles.
Over-the-shoulder purses and messenger bags cause uneven weight distribution that strains neck, shoulder, and upper back muscles and pulls your posture out of alignment.
When it’s not too heavy and worn correctly, a backpack can distribute the weight evenly and relieve tension. Otherwise, lighten the load and switch from one shoulder to the other periodically.
Dr. Michels does not discourage reading. Instead, he suggests checking your spinal alignment as you read. For instance, don’t read while lying on your side.
Use a wedge pillow or several pillows propped against the headboard to provide back support, and position a pillow under your knees to maintain a comfortable upright/semi-reclined position. A pillow or small cushion on your lap makes a handy book or tablet tray.
Constantly looking down at your cell phone to read and text, and bending your neck to prop your cell phone between your ear and shoulder, while talking, can lead to increased neck pain. When reading or texting, always hold your phone at eye level to prevent constantly looking down, which causes undue stress on your neck. When talking on your phone, if possible, use the speaker phone function to enable a neutral position of you spine.
Don’t ignore your neck pain. Early diagnosis and treatment for frequent, persistent, or worsening discomfort can help identify posture problems, degenerative changes, and other neck issues before they interfere with your mobility and quality of life.
Schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you develop tingling, numbness, or weakness in your arms or legs. These symptoms indicate potential nerve damage.
Call Dr. Michels’ office today or request an appointment online for quality care and minimally invasive solutions for your chronic pain issues.