We all experience neck pain at some point in our lives. It may be from sleeping in an awkward position, working at a computer for too long, or carrying heavy loads. While it’s annoying and can make everyday tasks difficult, neck pain is typically not a sign of anything serious.
Here are three basic reasons you may be experiencing neck pain and what you can do about it. From choosing better bedding pillows to improving your posture, find out how to get relief from neck pain.
1. Poor Sleep Positioning
One of the most common reasons for neck pain is poor sleep positioning. If you often wake up with a stiff neck or sore shoulders, it’s likely due to how you sleep. To reduce neck pain, aim to sleep on your back or side in a neutral position. This means your head, neck and spine should be in a straight line. If you sleep on your stomach, you can put unnecessary strain on your neck and end up with pain.
A great way to ensure your sleeping position supports your neck is to use pillows that are the right size and loft. A pillow that’s too low won’t provide enough support and can cause your neck to bend awkwardly.
On the other hand, a pillow that’s too high can also lead to pain, as it elevates your head and puts pressure on your neck. For side sleepers, consider using a firm and supportive pillow, such as a memory foam pillow. For back sleepers, a softer pillow may be more comfortable as it won’t put too much pressure on your neck.
For issues that a pillow change doesn’t solve, you may want to also explore mattresses and beds that support the natural curve of your spine. Mattresses that are too soft or too hard can also cause neck pain. Additionally, adjustable beds may also improve your sleep position and provide neck pain relief.
2. Bad Posture
Another common cause of neck pain is bad posture. For example, if you have a desk job or spend a lot of time looking down at your phone, you may start to experience pain in your upper back and neck. This is because poor posture can cause the muscles and ligaments in your neck to stretch and strain.
Over time, this can lead to permanent changes in the alignment of your spine and chronic neck pain. Researchers found that those who worked more than 42 hours per week and spent 80 percent or more time sitting were more likely to experience neck pain.
Start by paying attention to how you sit and stand to improve your posture and reduce neck pain. Ensure your ears are aligned with your shoulders and that you’re not slouching forward. For office workers, it’s also essential to have a supportive chair that allows you to sit up straight.
Or better yet, invest in a standing desk that will enable you to raise and lower your workstation. If you find yourself slouching, set a reminder on your phone or computer to sit up straight every 20 minutes.
If you spend a lot of time looking down at your phone, ensure you take regular breaks to look up and move around. This is equally important if you use your phone for work or leisure, as it can help prevent neck pain.
Additionally, hold your phone at eye level instead of looking down at it. You can use apps that track your screen time and remind you to take breaks. When possible, mirror your phone onto an ergonomically situated monitor to reduce the time you spend looking down.
3. Stress, Muscle Tension, and Lack of Movement
Stress, muscle tension, and lack of movement are common causes of neck pain. When stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode, and your muscles tense up. This can lead to pain, stiffness, and headaches. To reduce stress and neck pain, consider incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routines for healthy lifestyle, such as desk yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
Muscle tension is also a common cause of neck pain. This can be due to poor posture, repetitive motions, or spending too much time in one position. If you have muscle tension in your neck, you may notice that your shoulders feel tight or that you have knots in your muscles. To relieve muscle tension, try massage therapy, stretching, or self-massage with a foam roller or tennis ball.
Finally, lack of movement and exercise can also lead to neck pain. If you spend most of your day sitting, your muscles can become weak and stiff. To reduce neck pain, incorporate regular movement and exercise into your routine. For example, taking a brisk walk, doing some swimming or taking a yoga class are great ways to increase movement and reduce pain.
When to Consult a Physician or Health Care Professional
If you experience severe neck pain that lasts for more than a week or is accompanied by other symptoms such as numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms or legs, it’s important to consult a physician or health care professional. These could be signs of a more serious condition such as a herniated disc, cervical degenerative disc disease or undiagnosed trauma. A physician or healthcare professional can conduct a physical examination and order imaging tests to help diagnose the cause of your neck pain and develop a treatment plan.
Don’t Let a Pain in the Neck Become a Pain in the Butt
If you suffer from neck pain, you can do several things to find relief. To reduce pain and stiffness, ensure your bed is comfortable and supportive, and take breaks throughout the day to move around and stretch regularly. You can also try massage therapy and heat or ice packs or focus on improving your posture, incorporating regular movement and exercise into your routine, and managing stress.
If you have severe neck pain or pain that lasts for more than a week, consult a physician or healthcare professional to rule out any underlying conditions. Then, with the right treatment plan, you can find relief from your neck pain and get back to living your life.