Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Articles
7 Reasons You Have Neck Pain, Self Care Tips for Neck Pain
by Patricia Kowal, Licensed Acupuncturist in Noosa
This picture is often what we look like after a long day at work, long work on the computer, etc. Neck pain is a common reason patients seek acupuncture. Unfortunately neck pain often translates to painful headaches, sometimes of a chronic nature, back pain and poor posture. Repetitive posturing and misalignment of our neck throughout our daily activities whether we are on our computers, driving or checking our phones, can cause chronic neck pain and discomfort. Often after treatments, patients will feel relief, but then continue the physical/structural habits that contribute to their pain again, they "pick off the scab". I try to educate my patients as much as possible so they can get the best benefits from their treatments. Below find reasons you may be experiencing neck pain and how to take care of yourself to prevent the pain and improve your posture after you get acupuncture treatments:
1) Unhealthy sleeping posture:
If you think about it, we spend almost half of our days sleeping. Having an unhealthy posture can greatly contribute to ongoing neck pain and issues. Stomach sleepers! Sleeping on our stomach means our neck is constantly in a laterally flexed position, putting much strain on the muscles. If you sleep on your side or back with a thick pillow, this also puts a strain on the neck as the curve of your neck bones are not in line with the rest of your spine. WHAT TO DO? Sleep on your back or side with a pillow that is just right so that your neck is in line with the rest of your spine. You can get pillows with an added neck support in them if you are a black sleeper.
2) Bending (flexing) our head forward, creating poor neck posture:
We are so often bending our head forward to look down at our computers, smart phones, lap tops, reading books, typing on keyboards and even tending to infants. You are probably bending your head forward reading this right now! By doing this often throughout the day we develop poor neck posture and an imbalance between the muscles that act on the front of our neck, and the ones that act on the back of our neck. WHAT TO DO? Notice when you are bending your head forward to look at your electronics, etc., and bring it up to eye level, this creates a healthy habit by having better neck posture. Try this small change and you may just notice a decrease in neck pain at the end of the day!
3) Forward carriage of our necks:
Similar to #1, this also has to do with our necks jutting forward constantly while we're driving, looking at computer screens, etc. We throw off our center of weight (it should be directly balanced over our trunk), causing the muscles on our back that help with neck movements to contract. WHAT TO DO? Remind yourself to tuck your chin in, almost as if you've just smelled something terrible! This little reminder can bring your neck back to the center of weight where it's supposed to be.
4) Holding our arms out in front of us:
holding our arms in front of us, such as using a keyboard that is too far away, or holding a book up to our eye height with a bit of distance from our body. Unfortunately there are many things we do during the day that require this type of posture. WHAT TO DO? To prevent bad neck posture and consequently neck pain/headaches, remember to bring our work, book, keyboard or whatever we're reaching for in front of us, more towards our body. Our upper arm should be relaxed and hanging next to our body instead of stretched out and putting strain on our neck and causing bad postural alignment.
5) Holding the phone without any hands, using your ear/phone pressed against your shoulder to hold it up:
OUCH! This causes unhealthy contraction of all the neck muscles. WHAT TO DO: If you are on the phone a lot and find yourself doing this, try holding the phone with the opposite hand so you can free up your writing hand. Ideally if you are doing this action everyday, a hands-free headset for either your office/desk phone or mobile is recommended.
6) Carrying heavy weighted baggage/luggage in our hands:
this applies to computer bags, heavy purses (might be time to scale down that purse if it's that big!), suitcases, travel bags, groceries. The heavy baggage creates an intense force that strongly pulls your shoulder mechanism towards the ground. Consequently, this strong force must be counteracted by other muscles, especially ones on your back that connect to the shoulders and neck. WHAT TO DO? Using baggage with wheels is always the best idea (I've seen some very stylish ones, don't worry), using a back pack which transfers some of the weight to your hips instead of relying solely on the shoulder mechanism. If these are not possible, try to distribute the weight evenly to each hand.
7) Carrying purses/bags off our shoulder:
our shoulders naturally have a downward slope to them. Even if our bag/purse is light, our shoulder blade gets elevated (contracting back muscles that connect to the neck) in order to keep the bag on our shoulder. If the bag is heavy, it puts even more strain on our necks and can cut off blood supply and create further issues with shoulder muscles. WHAT TO DO? Wearing the bag across the body is a better alternative than wearing it on same side, use a back-pack (if you look around there are actually some that don't look that bad), use a fanny pack (but that's way too 80s), a clutch that is carried in your hand and not straining your shoulder or neck, or use a bag on wheels (especially for students with thick, heavy text books).
Contact me today on how acupuncture can work for your neck pain and/or issues with headaches. With taking responsibility and being adamant about self care, you may be on your way to figuring out how to correct your posture and deal with less pain.
Disclaimer: Please follow up with your practitioner if you are unsure or are having questions about the information contained in this material.
Thanks to Joseph Musculino for his easy to understand tips on neck posture.