With many people gazing into computers, staring down at their smart phones or hunching over your workbench the whole day – neck pain has become a common problem. The prevalent use of computers and smartphone devices compel people to crane their neck at awkward angles causing severe pain and stiffness. Your neck is made up of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. The bones, ligaments, and muscles of your neck support your head and allow for motion. Any abnormalities, inflammation, or injury can cause neck pain or stiffness. The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe, burning pain and occur anywhere in the neck – from the bottom of your head to the top of your shoulders, and also spread towards the upper back or arms. If left untreated, the chronic pain and stiffness in the cervical spine area can lead to further serious complications. Reliable multi-specialty healthcare centers offer pain management and rehabilitation services in Brooklyn, which help resolve pain and reduce stiffness associated with the condition.
Pain in the neck muscles occurs due to a variety of factors such as – poor/incorrect posture, repetitive neck motion, neck or spinal injury (occurring from contact sports or motor-vehicle accidents), muscle strain, worn joints, degeneration or wear and tear and nerve compression. Generally, pain in the neck area begins as a dull ache. As the condition progresses, pain in the area gets worse with movement of the neck or turning the head. Common symptoms associated with the condition include – tingling sensations, swishing sounds in the head, sharp shooting pain, muscle tightness and spasm, headache, pain that gets worse by holding your head in one place for long periods (such as when driving or working at a computer), dizziness or lightheadedness, difficulty swallowing, decreased ability to move your head and lymph node (gland) swelling.
How to Prevent Neck Pain – Tips
Neck pain and stiffness is typically associated with poor posture combined with age-related wear and tear. Incorporating some key lifestyle changes and ergonomic workplace tools can help prevent pain in the long run. Always, make it a habit to keep your head centered over your spine. In addition, regular exercise can strengthen your muscles and make them less likely to be strained or injured. Here are some important tips to prevent stiff neck –
- Create an ergonomic workplace – People engaged in office jobs happen to sit at work continuously for at least eight hours each day and this can directly contribute to a stiff neck as well as other ailments. Adjust your desk and chair in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor and your knees slightly lower than your hips. Place your computer monitor at eye level. Use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse. While sitting, use an ergonomic posture – with your back straight and your arms level to the desk. Also, make it a habit to stand up to stretch and move every hour.
- Never constantly look down at your phone – Continuously looking down at your Smartphone may strain your neck muscles. Avoid tucking the phone between your ear and shoulder when you talk. Instead, use a headset or speakerphone. Hold your phone at eye level. Also, take hourly breaks from your phone.
- Maintain a good, supportive posture – Poor body posture can cause pain by straining the muscles and ligaments that support the neck, causing severe injury over time. When standing and sitting, make sure that your shoulders are in a straight line over your hips and your ears are directly over your shoulders.
- Sleep in a good position – Create a comfortable sleeping environment. This includes a proper pillow (possibly a cervical pillow), mattress and comfortable sleeping position. Sleeping on your back or sideways places less strain on your neck and allows your spine to rest completely. A good sleeping position should keep your head and neck aligned with the body. Always use a small pillow under your neck. Your pillow should provide support for your head and neck, without forcing your neck into a contorted position. Avoid using too high or stiff a pillow, which keeps the neck, flexed overnight and can result in morning pain and stiffness. Try sleeping on your back with your thighs elevated on pillows, which will flatten your spinal muscles.
- Stay well hydrated – Drink adequate amount of water throughout the day as this will help nourish and hydrate the discs (the spongy structures that lie between the vertebrae in your neck). These discs are made up of mostly water. Hence, staying well hydrated will keep your discs pliable and strong. Ideally, try to drink at least 8 large glasses of water a day.
- Limit physical activity – Limit heavy lifting and other activities that may strain your neck muscles. Avoid carrying heavy bags or items on one side of the body. Weight should be evenly distributed, with a properly adjusted backpack, to avoid strain and pain.
- Exercise and stretch – Taking regular breaks to exercise and stretch is a great way to prevent stiff neck. Keep your neck muscles strong by doing short sets of physical therapy workouts such as strengthening and stretching exercises which help strengthen the muscles that pull the head into alignment over the shoulders. One of the simplest exercises to do is the chin tuck exercise.
Most of the time, a stiff neck with minor pain can be easily resolved by taking the above mentioned preventive measures. However, if your pain does not subside after a few days or you experience additional symptoms, medical treatment may be necessary. Neck pain treatment in Brooklyn-based professional healthcare centers will include a wide variety of non-surgical treatment modalities that help reduce pain, inflammation and other related symptoms. Mild type of pain can be treated using non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen, ice or heat applications, TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) or other remedies. Other prominent treatment programs include – physical therapy (includes therapeutic exercise programs such as gentle strengthening, stretching, and aerobic exercises), chiropractic care (gentle manipulation of the joint to reduce pain) and Game Ready Cold Therapy Compression System (combining active compression and cold therapies in one single treatment).
However, if patients don’t experience full recovery with any of the above non-surgical treatment methods, surgery may be considered as a last option for relieving nerve root or spinal cord compression.