Did you know the average human head weighs between eight and ten pounds? That’s a lot of weight for your neck to support! It is no surprise that many people suffer from neck pain, particularly as they age.
Neck pain is quite common because the neck, known as the cervical spine, is comprised of muscles, bones, ligaments and nerves that are far less protected than other areas of the spine. The neck is also susceptible to injury and pain because of its range of motion and the support it provides to the head. Learn more about neck pain symptoms and how to prevent neck pain below.
Neck Pain Symptoms
Neck pain can come in several different forms. Sometimes it can be as simple as soreness from being hunched over a computer for an extended period of time, and sometimes it can be more complicated like pain from a herniated or ruptured disk.
Common symptoms include:
- Difficulty moving your head
- Muscle stiffness
- Spasms or sudden pain with movement
- Pain that worsens over prolonged periods of immobility
- Tingling sensation or numbness
Neck Pain Causes
When the muscles, ligaments, nerves, disks or bones of the neck are compromised, neck pain is often a result. While injuries and degeneration (wear and tear) are typically the primary reasons for neck pain, some people may experience pain from tumors, infections, diseases or motor vehicle accidents. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedics, the most common neck injuries involve the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) of the neck.
Tips to Avoid Neck Pain
Practicing proper posture, setting up an ergonomic workstation, and stretching are all common and effective ways to prevent neck pain. Here are some tips:
- If you sit at a desk for several hours each day, be sure to sit up straight, have ample back support, and place your computer monitor at eye level.
- If your job involves a significant amount of time on the phone, try using a headset to avoid forcing your neck into an unnatural position for extended periods of time.
- Sit up straight! Monitoring your posture throughout the day can help prevent straining muscles and ligaments that support your neck.
- Take breaks to stretch throughout the day, in addition to before and after activity, and exercise your neck muscles using strengthening techniques. Rebound therapists recommend that you stand and move/ stretch for 30 seconds every 30 minutes that you are sitting.
- Create a comfortable sleeping environment. This includes a proper pillow (possibly a cervical pillow), mattress and sleeping position. Your pillow should provide support for your head and neck, without forcing your neck into a contorted position. Sleeping on your back is a beneficial way to rest your spine and maintain comfortable alignment.
- Reading at an awkward angle can cause muscle strain. Avoid the discomfort that accompanies muscle strain by avoiding keeping your head in a tilted, downward position. Whether you’re reading in bed or in a chair, you should also evaluate your back support.
- Staying hydrated is important for many reasons, and may help keep your spine healthy and flexible. The disks in your spine are mostly comprised of water.
- Avoid carrying heavy bags or items on one side of the body. Weight should be distributed evenly, with a properly adjusted backpack, to avoid strain and pain.