Neck pain can be a real bug-bear to live with. So if it’s something you’re struggling to get rid of, we’ve put together an article today on why you might have neck pain, some common causes, as well as a couple of exercises that might be helpful for you. Neck pain can really affect anyone at any age, whether you’re old or young, so if you’re not sure what you can be doing, stay tuned!
How Does Neck Pain Occur?
Just like your back, the neck should have a nice smooth curve going through it. In an ideal world, your head would be above the shoulders and this would make the whole area very balanced. If you have this type of curve, any stiffness you might have across the shoulders or upper back might be very short-lived as there’s no structural imbalance there for the problem to persist. However, when we frequently sit with poor posture, whether that’s in bed in the evening watching TV with your head propped up on a pillow, whether that’s a poor desk set-up causing you to be constantly looking down at your laptop, whether you spend a great deal of time looking down at your phone screen during the day, all of these can have a huge impact on the neck alignment. This is because you have ligaments on the front and back portions of the neck that will help your neck to move forwards and backwards with flexibility. When you frequently sit with poor posture, these ligaments loosen and remodel to the shape that you put your neck in most often – our body is very adaptive in that way! As your neck shifts away from this ideal alignment, your muscles have to work harder, which can make them tense or bring on muscle spasms.
How Can Your Alignment Cause Neck Pain?
So with that all in mind, if your neck starts to remodel and your poor posture persists, you might well be in the grips of a neck problem that just won’t go away. This is often the case if your alignment has shifted to being more straight, or even one where the curve is completely reversed (instead of tilting backwards, your neck arches forwards). A neck in either of those positions is not going to fair well over time, this is the kind of patient who might experience a trapped nerve, or suffer with bulging discs. Because of the extra compression, it’s also likely that the neck will lose hydration in the discs that protect in between the vertebrae, which can mean you become more stiff and you’re more likely to suffer with early degeneration. Often when we see patients, this degeneration can be passed on as age-related arthritic change, however we frequently see older patients with the problem as much as we see younger people. What’s not often thought of is that sure these changes can occur over time, but if it was genuinely age related you would experience arthritic change throughout the entire length of the spine, not in pockets.
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What Exercises Are Helpful For Neck Pain?
With this type of alignment, you might feel relief by stretching the neck forwards, and exercises like chin tucks are often prescribed for this reason. However, chin tucks can have an unintentional effect on your alignment so instead of fixing it, it will become straight or straighter. We often recommend for people specifically to avoid this type of stretching as it’s not doing you any favours, and the people it’s actually beneficial for are relatively few. Instead, we would recommend doing the following two exercises. Firstly, cervical extensions. This involves essentially taking an exercise band, holding each end in each hand, placing at the back of your neck in the middle and gently pulling as you look up. If you would like a more in-depth demonstration, we do have a video walkthrough you can watch here!
The second exercise we recommend is the towel stretch. This involves a rolled up towel, roughly the size of a water bottle, placed underneath the neck close to the shoulders. Using the towel, this helps to unload the muscles and joints in the neck and provide a gentle stretch to the discs to allow them time to recover. This exercise is very good for just providing a reset button for your neck, so if you’ve had a long day or you can feel your neck getting stiff, hop on the towel for about 3-5 minutes. You can also use it as a great way to take 5 minutes for yourself if you find somewhere quiet where you’re less likely to be disturbed. It’s important you do this stretch correctly so do make sure to watch the full walkthrough video here first.
We hope you found today’s article helpful! If you are struggling with neck pain, do try these stretches to see if they help to bring you some relief. If you have any questions at all about neck pain or your specific problem, we’re currently doing live videos everyday where our lead practitioner Michael Fatica can answer your questions. If you have a topic you’d like us to cover or you just want to ask a question, feel free to tune in every weekday on our Facebook or YouTube channels. Make sure to stay up to date by following our social channels to find out when those videos are going live!
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