If you’re struggling with neck pain right now, finding help that’s going to give you relief can be quite difficult. Knowing the kinds of stretches and exercises that would be helpful for you are going to be key to making a swift recovery. Today we’re going to talk about what exactly is wrong with the neck, why it malfunctions, what things you need to be avoiding with neck pain and what stretches you can do to give relief.
What Causes Neck Pain?
Similar to the lower back, the neck can sometimes malfunction in its ability to effectively weight bear if there has been a change to the way that it’s aligned. Spending a lot of time adopting poor posture either by looking down for long periods of time at your phone, poor desk set-up where you need to be excessively looking up or down at your screen, or just poor awareness of your posture when you’re at your desk if you’re frequently slouching by rounding the back or hunching forwards. All of these behaviours can contribute towards a loss of curvature in the neck. The small joints in the neck need that curvature in order to effectively distribute the weight of your head on a daily basis, as well as staying flexible and mobile. When the curvature is lost, you may find that you might get regular headaches, your muscles in the neck and upper back may get stiff due to being overstretched, you may eventually suffer from disc bulges due to the change in curvature compressing constantly on discs in the cervical spine as well. At The Mayfair Clinic, it’s very common for us to see cases where the neck has lost up to 100% of it’s curve, compared to people losing around 25% in the lumbar spine.
What Exercises Should Be Avoided
There is a common exercise that is frequently recommended for neck pain called chin tucks. This exercise is so often recommended, but rarely is appropriate for every single individual with neck pain as the efficacy is often based on the patient having a specific change in curvature. We often recommend a different exercise that we’ll discuss below, which is going to be much more effective in the vast majority of cases. Even people without neck pain can do the stretches we recommend as maintenance or after a long day sat at your desk if you’re feeling a little bit stiff.
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If anyone does enjoy doing yoga, one of the exercises that is frequently built up to is the headstand. This exercise for someone who has neck pain or gets it intermittently, may not be helpful in the slightest. The reason for this is that if you compare the size of the neck joints to those in the lower back, they are much smaller in comparison. This can be viewed on any example X-ray or on skeletal models, the neck is a structure of very small joints because it is made to bear just the weight of your head. Your lower back joints in comparison are much larger, because it is made to bear the weight of most of your body. When you go into a headstand, you’re placing all of your bodyweight onto those small neck joints, which is quickly going to end up in an injury for your neck even if you do support the movement with your arms.
Which Exercises Are Beneficial For Neck Pain?
There are two exercises that we frequently recommend for neck pain. Cervical extensions and our neck towel stretch. Start off with cervical extensions, you will need a stronger resistance exercise band. Take each end in both hands, placing the middle of the band at the back of the neck, then hold the band at the parts lying close to the shoulders. Gently lean your head back as you pull on the band with both hands. This should not be a quick movement but rather a slow, pumping motion essentially. If you’d like a video demonstration of the exercise, you can find this here. This exercise helps to reinforce correct curve in your neck and take the pressure off the muscles.
The towel stretch involves a small towel, rolled up to about the size of a water bottle. You’ll then lie with the rolled up towel underneath the neck, quite close to the shoulders so that your head is looking above and back rather than forwards towards the toes. Lie on the towel for around 3-5 minutes at a time and then gently roll off to the sides. Again, if you’d like a video demonstration of this exercise so you can ensure you’re doing it with correct form, you can find this here.
Preventing Recurring Neck Pain
To prevent reoccurences of the problem, you should avoid spending too much time looking down at your phone. You can find popsockets online that can stick onto a phone case in order to make it much easier for you to hold your phone at eye level, as this is often the reason why people don’t make a habit out of it, because it’s easier to look down than to hold your arms up. Try to sit properly at your computer, with the monitor at eye-level, your back straight, shoulders back and neck in a neutral position so that you’re not putting any strain on the joint. This will help it to stay more mobile. You should also avoid using shoulder bags, as these encourage you to dip one shoulder and put excessive weight through one side of the body, often for extended periods of time. Instead, opt for a backpack tightened properly to avoid any excess stress on the upper back. You can also try after doing the exercises, putting some ice on the middle of the neck for around 5 minutes at a time, a few times a day. Avoid taking a very hot bath or shower to ease the tension, as this may feel good but can cause a further inflammatory response instead.
We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s article and found it helpful. Remember, if you do know someone who may be suffering with neck pain, especially right now when it may be difficult to get the help you need, make sure to share this article with them. If you have any questions at all about the topic, please do get in touch with us either via our social channels, through email at email@example.com or by tuning in to our livestreams, available everyday on our Facebook and YouTube channels. We run a Q&A with our lead practitioner Michael Fatica during these videos where you can ask questions about your condition or about the particular topic that day! If you’re struggling with back pain as well, we have a membership area that is free to access, available at www.backinshapeapp.com where you can learn our tips, tricks and stretches to help you get relief!
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