fbpx

Causes of Neck Pain

Causes of neck pain and the things you need to know to relieve it

Common causes of neck pain include trauma from accidents, postural stresses, and working in awkward positions or cramped spaces. Unfortunately, we are limited in the things we can do to protect against unforseen accidents, hence this article focuses on what we can do to limit neck pain elsewhere in our daily lives.

When moving about, we assume a fairly upright posture with the head retracted and held directly over the vertebral column receiving maximum support. In relaxed sitting, the head and neck slowly protrude because the supporting muscles gradually tire and no longer support good posture. The pain we feel in our neck is caused by the over-stretching of ligaments for prolonged periods in this protruded position. Other causes of neck pain include lying or sleeping with the head in strained positions.

The cervical lordosis is the curve at the back of your neck when viewed from the side. Office workers usually sit in a slouched position, hanging their head forward of the shoulders and protruding the chin thus losing the lordosis completely. Pain from working in this position is relieved simply by correcting the posture, however, habitual poor posture will result in changes to the structure and shape of the joints of the neck, and lead to more complicated injury.

Prolonged sitting situations

The position of the low back strongly influences the posture of the neck, do not allow it to slouch or become rounded whilst sitting. Correct sitting posture is vital. You should also interrupt protruded head posture with regular intervals and postural relief exercises.

The correct head posture whilst sitting requires you to keep the head retracted. The extreme of the retracted head position is that which gives the appearance of a double chin, and is actually a position of strain. Sitting comfortably and correctly requires you to hold your head just short of the extreme retracted posture. To find this position, first retract the head as far as possible and then release the last 10% of this movement. This is the correct head posture and can be maintained for any length of time.

If you find yourself sitting for large portions of the day, your aim should be to restore correct posture and then maintain it. Pain will start to decrease as you improve your head posture, and you will have no pain once you can maintain the correct posture. Pain will reoccur in the first few weeks if you allow your head to protrude, but eventually you will be pain free even when you momentarily fall out of good posture.

During this period of posture re-training, expect to feel some new pains, possibly in different places. These pains are the result of performing the postural relief exercises and holding new head positions. They should wear off in a few days provided postural correction is continued on a regular basis.

Lying and resting

Postural stress in the lying position contributes to the causes of neck pain. If you wake up in the morning with pain and stiffness in the neck that was not there the night before, the problem is possibly due to the sleeping surface or position in which you sleep.

Your pillow functions to support your head and neck. You might need to change the material from which it is made, the thickness, or both. The pillow should fill the curve behind your neck without tilting the head or lifting it up. Ideally, the head should be able to rest on a “dish-shaped hollow” so you need to be able to adjust the contents of the pillow easily.

Beware of pillows made of moulded foam. Many of these pillows do not allow their contents to be adjusted and always adopt the shape of their original mould. These pillows do not allow the head to rest into a “dish-shaped hollow” and rather tend to apply a recoil pressure against the natural position the head would like to adopt. You should be able to adjust your pillow such that you can make a hollow for your head to lie in whilst still being able to bunch the edge of the pillow to form a thick support for your neck.

If the lying posture itself is thought to cause neck pain, it should be investigated for each person individually. In short, it is better if you can sleep on your back or your side. Some people prefer to sleep on their stomach and frequently wake up with a headache or neck pain and stiffness.

Neck Pain

When lying face down, the head is turned to one side to allow breathing and avoid squashing the nose. In this position however, some of the joints, particularly those in the upper neck, approach the maximum degree of rotation. This strains the surrounding soft tissues of the neck and those between the upper neck and head.

Try to avoid lying face down when sleeping if you are waking up with neck pain. In addition, there are recommended exercises to ensure you can properly retract the head, extend the neck properly and have adequate range of motion when turning the head.

Cooling down after intense exercise

After exercising, avoid sitting or lying with the head in a protruded posture. Thoroughly exercised joints in the spine easily distort if they are held in an overstretched position for too long. Commonly, the exercise is blamed for the cause of neck pain but in many cases it is attributable to the prolonged forward bending of the head and neck when relaxing afterwards.

Working related causes

Some jobs can only be performed in positions likely to cause overstretching of the joints in the neck. These jobs may require sitting and performing precision work (microscopy, watchmaking) or working in cramped spaces with the head and neck in awkward static positions.

It may not be practical to prevent the onset of neck pain by regularly assuming the correct posture. Instead you will need to interrupt positions of overstretch frequently by performing the relevant neck exercises.

The neck has a tough job – holding your head on top of your shoulders every day. Try to become more aware about the positions you find yourself in more frequently and asses yourself as to whether you are likely to be causing your neck unnecessary strain. If you can prevent neck pain from occurring, you won’t ever have to worry about how to having it treated – that’s just a pain in the neck.

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

Chiropractor North Sydney | Friendly & experienced