Chronic neck pain is a common ailment that can become severe enough to impede your activities. Neck pain can be the result of traumatic injuries, such as those sustained in car accidents or in high impact sports activities. Age-related wear and tear that leads to osteoarthritis can also cause neck pain, and cancer is another culprit. You have minimal control over these causes. Three causes of chronic neck pain are common lifestyle habits that you can change, however, resulting in pain relief now and preserving the alignment and function of your neck through your future.
Necks Are Complex
As you may have heard before, extra bells and whistles in a car can be perceived as more things that can malfunction. The same can be thought of your neck. Your cervical spine, which is the section of your spine that is located in your neck, is made up of your spinal cord, vertebrae, intervertebral disks, nerve roots, blood vessels, muscles and ligaments, all working together to support your skull and provide greater mobility and flexibility than any other part of your spine. The level of complexity and function means more opportunity to sustain painful strains, sprains, and other injuries.
Look Up to Your Screens
Your high tech lifestyle can be a pain in your neck. In a digital age when everyone is staring down at their smartphones and tablets, it is no surprise that poor posture is such a frequent cause of neck pain. The phenomenon is known as text neck syndrome, but the same discomfort can also result from poor posture as you tilt your head downward over a workbench or jut your head forward toward a desktop computer monitor for lengthy periods of time. Assuming these positions on a frequent and regular basis causes chronic soreness in your neck and severe muscle spasms in your upper back. Over time, damage can result, such as an early onset of arthritis in your cervical spine. Consider making the following changes to improve your posture and relieve your discomfort:
- Hold your mobile devices up to your eye level when using them instead of on your lap or at waist or chest level.
- Use Bluetooth or a hands-free headset when you talk on the phone instead of curving your neck to hold phone in between your chin and shoulder.
- If you work at a computer all day, position the monitor so that it sits at your eye level instead of positioning your head to meet the screen.
- Invest in a desk chair that has a headrest, and sit up straight in the chair while you work. If your ears are positioned directly above your shoulders instead of closer to the screen than your shoulders, then you are sitting correctly.
Banish the Butt to Save Your Neck
If you are a smoker, you have repeatedly heard numerous reasons why you should extinguish the unhealthy habit. It is widely known that smoking causes lung cancer as well as atherosclerosis, a condition that increases your risk for hypertension and coronary heart disease, but did you know that your smoking habit can result in chronic neck pain? Atherosclerosis is defined as the accumulation of plaque within your arteries. The chemicals found in tobacco smoke can cause this condition. The cervical disks in your neck depend on nourishment from blood that travels through the small blood vessels located alongside them. As atherosclerosis progresses, the arteries harden and narrow, inhibiting the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the disks. These nutrient-deficient disks start to deteriorate, which is a condition known as degenerative cervical disk disease. The same damage can be incurred anywhere along your spinal column, in which case is it referred to as intervertebral disc disease and results in back pain.
Stop Sleeping On Your Stomach
If you wake up with a stiff and sore neck, your sleeping habits could be the culprit. Many people find that they get a good night's sleep when they snooze on their bellies. While they may sleep soundly overnight, this poor nocturnal posture will result in painful daytime hours over time. If you are a stomach sleeper, you are forcing your head to turn sharply to one side and crane upward to rest on a puffy pile of pillows. This holds your neck out of alignment for hours while you sleep. If you absolutely cannot fall asleep on your side or back, consider using only a single flat pillow so that your head is better aligned with your cervical spine. Alternately, regardless of your positional preference, you may want to experiment with an orthopedic neck pillow or a chiropractic water pillow.
If these changes do not relieve your chronic neck pain, schedule an appointment with your physician. He or she may refer you to an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist for further evaluation and treatment. Diagnostic imaging tests, such as radiographs or magnetic resonance imaging, may be ordered to assess the condition of your cervical spine. Several forms of treatment can be implemented to alleviate neck pain, including physical therapy exercises, steroid injections, oral analgesic medications, laser therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture. For more information, contact local neck pain experts, such as Isaacson Wayne MD.