Neck pain, alongside lower back pain, is an extremely common reason for trips to the doctor or missed work days. The neck, also called the cervical spine or c-spine, begins at the base of the skull and is made up of seven vertebrae. A complex network muscles, ligaments, and tendons support the neck and give it the necessary stability.
The cervical spine has several important jobs:
- Protect the brainstem and spinal cord
- Support the skull
- Allow for the diverse ranges of movement of our head
When your neck is stiff or painful, it’s not only uncomfortable but it can also compromise your ability to perform your daily tasks such as safely driving a car.
What’s Causing My Neck Pain?
The reasons for neck pain can be complex, but it often occurs for the following reasons:
- Head or neck trauma – whiplash, concussion, or other types of head or neck injury can damage the joints and/or soft tissues of the neck, leading to ongoing pain and discomfort.
- Poor posture – incorrect posture, whether standing or seated, can put undue strain on muscles and ligaments as well as stress on joints. Over time, this can cause degeneration of discs, nerve compression, and muscle spasm, all of which can lead to neck pain and discomfort.
- Bone or joint abnormalities – osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage in between vertebrae wears thin. Osteoarthritis can cause painful joints as well as bone spur formation that can limit range of motion.
- Soft tissue injury – almost everyone has experienced the discomfort of neck muscle strain. Muscles in the neck can strain from overuse, poor posture (like slouching at your desk or looking down at your smartphone), or from repetitive movement. The ligaments of the cervical spine can also be damaged as a result of a sports injury or car accident.
Tips for Neck Pain Prevention
One of the big keys to preventing ongoing neck pain is to keep your head centered over your spine. Many neck pain cases have a lot to do with poor posture and wear and tear that occurs as we age. Incorporating small changes into your day-to-day routine can make a big difference when it comes to finding relief from ongoing neck pain and problems.
- Rest well – the position you choose to sleep in can make a big difference in the way your neck feels upon waking up in the morning. Choosing to sleep either on your back or side will give your spine the best support. Back sleepers should choose a fairly thin pillow that gives your neck support without forcing your chin to your chest. Side sleepers will need a thicker pillow to accommodate the space from the shoulder to the neck. Stomach sleeping can be quite difficult on the neck since it must be turned maximally to one side through the night causing unequal muscle tension.
- Work smart – whether your job is active or sedentary, it’s important to work ergonomically. Adjusting your workstation to fit your needs can help take strain off of the neck. Make sure that your monitor is at eye level to keep your neck from constantly having to strain to look down. Taking regular breaks to stretch your neck and shoulders is also helpful to combat the rounding forward that inevitably happens when working at a desk.
- Quit smoking – smoking puts you at an increased risk of developing neck and back pain. Nicotine restricts blood flow in the vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the discs, the shock absorbing cushions in between the vertebrae. Smoking has been liked to early disc degeneration, leading to pain in the neck, shoulders, arms, and hands if the nerves are irritated as well.
- Ditch the heavy bag – carrying a heavy bag, briefcase, or purse can add to neck strain and pain. This is particularly true for bags that are carried on one side of the body. Make sure to go through the contents of your bag frequently to avoid carrying around unnecessary weight. You may also consider switching to a backpack so that weight can be distributed more symmetrically.
- Have your neck checked – slight misalignments of the bones in your cervical spine can affect how your joints work, how your muscles move, and how your nerves function. The uppermost vertebra in your neck, the atlas (C1), is the most freely movable segment not only in the neck but in the entire spine. If the atlas misaligns, it can cause the rest of the neck beneath it to compensate in order to keep the head in a neutral, balanced position. Upper cervical chiropractors are specifically trained to address this important, underlying cause of many neck pain cases.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care Makes Sense for Neck Pain
When your neck is painful, stiff, or sore, it makes sense to address the underlying cause rather than cover up symptoms. If you are suffering from chronic neck pain and have yet to try upper cervical chiropractic care, then it might be the natural, lasting solution you’ve been looking for. Upper cervical care is precise and gentle, making it suitable for young and old alike.
At Upper Cervical of Monmouth, our goal is to correct the subtle misalignments that occur at the junction between the head and neck. This restores the normal balance of the head over the rest of the neck which, in turn, reduces the strain and tension on the spine below. You may find that the relief you get not only reduces your neck pain but also gives you back the quality of life you’re used to and the ability to go about your day freely.