Neck pain and stiffness can easily progress from being a daily inconvenience to having a serious long-term impact on your quality of life. Not to mention your ability to get a good night’s sleep or work in your chosen profession.
Unfortunately, a lot of people end up experiencing neck pain at times throughout their lives. In some cases, it’s related to an issue with posture or sleep hygiene. Though there are certainly a fair number of neck pain sufferers who need some degree of professional medical intervention to improve their quality of life.
Common Causes Of Neck Pain
Several things can cause, contribute to, or exacerbate neck pain. Some are minor ergonomic issues, while some are more serious chronic conditions that might require medications, physical therapy, or even surgical intervention.
Many people working in offices complain of recurring neck pain. In many of these cases, their posture when seated and the ergonomics of their work station are primary or contributing factors.
Stress and other underlying medical conditions can cause some individuals to excessively clench their jaw. As time goes on the muscles and connective tissues that connect the jaw to the neck and shoulders can experience chronic tension, inflammation, and soreness.
Repetitive Neck Motion
Frequently needing to turn your head as part of your job or an athletic hobby can cause tension in muscles and connective tissues in the neck. In time this stiffness can cause recurring neck pain.
The joints in the neck are increasingly prone to arthritis that develops with age. In time the vertebral discs in the neck can start to wear down. This can irritate nerves, and even lead to the bone on bone contact.
Neck or Spinal Injury
Athletic injuries and car accidents can cause severe neck trauma in the form of whiplash and other damage to soft tissues, connective tissues, and the cervical bones in the neck. In
Preventing Neck Stiffness & Pain
When it comes to neck stiffness and pain that isn’t directly associated with trauma or osteoarthritis, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Making simple changes in your daily routine or addressing sleep hygiene issues can go a long way toward preventing or minimizing the causes of recurring neck stiffness or chronic neck discomfort.
This can include things like making improvements in your posture when seated, or simply finding a new pillow that can cradle the head and neck in a comfortable position throughout the night. Getting more exercise can also be a major factor in preventing neck pain and stiffness.
Quit Smoking To Help Prevent Neck Pain
It is an interesting fact that smoking can gradually damage the cervical discs in the neck. As the discs, between your vertebrae, degrade, they progressively lose the ability to absorb shock delivered to the spine. The discs can also gradually dehydrated with age causing them to shrink and degenerate. This might be part of the reason why older smokers are increasingly prone to neck pain and cervical osteoarthritis complications.
Creating A More Ergonomic Workstation
Ergonomic issues in the workplace are a major cause or contributor to chronic neck pain and stiffness. This is especially true in manual labor positions and office jobs where you spend an excessive amount of time in one position. In many of these cases, poor posture issues in the upper back can exacerbate neck pain and stiffness making it hard to work in chronic discomfort.
You can start improving your work station ergonomics by first adjusting your chair to a comfortable position where your feet are flat on the floor and your knees positioned slightly lower than your hips. While seated try to keep your back straight and your arms level with the plane of the desktop.
Next, you can try adjusting the height of your computer or laptop so that the screen is at eye level. This will help you keep your neck in a proper posture without having to look down all day long. While you are at it, try to use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse to further improve the ergonomic comfort of your workstation.
If you have a job where you frequently need to look down at your smartphone or tablet, try to position it as close to eye level as possible. You might be able to install it into an adjustable stand to keep it near your computer screen.
As you go through your day, make it a point to get up and move around at least once an hour. If you can’t leave your workstation, try to stand up stretch your neck and shoulders. Then adjust your vision focusing from far to near for 20 to 30 seconds every 20 to 30 minutes.
Improving Driving Ergonomics To Prevent Neck Stiffness & Pain
Professional drivers and commuters who live far from their office often end up with neck stiffness and pain related to long periods sitting in a vehicle. Just like office ergonomics, you need to also consider making ergonomic improvements if you find yourself frequently struggling with neck pain and stiffness when driving.
If possible, try to take breaks to get out of your vehicle to stand up and stretch. Make a point to set your seat in a position for the best posture and support. Make sure your entire back and shoulders are properly supported.
If you can’t take a break during the course of a long drive, try to periodically roll your shoulders back and forth. Then squeeze your shoulder blades together for 10 to 12 repetitions. Then slowly tilt your ears to try to touch each shoulder. These simple exercises can help stretch shoulder and neck muscles to relieve tension and prevent recurring neck pain.
Improving Your Sleep Position & Sleep Hygiene
When you stop to think about it, you spend nearly a third of your life in bed. A bad mattress or pillow can have a serious impact on sleep quality and the posture of your neck or shoulders while sleeping. If your mattress is more than 10-years old, or you find yourself changing position frequently during the night, you might want to consider switching your pillow to a memory foam one or another type of ergonomically superior pillow.
You might want to consider changing your sleeping position. Sleeping on your side is much better than sleeping on your stomach, where pressure is placed on your neck.
When To Seek Medical Attention For Neck Pain
Several medical conditions can cause chronic neck pain and stiffness. This includes whiplash, traumatic injuries, and osteoarthritis. If ergonomic changes don’t improve your neck pain and stiffness after two to three weeks, you might want to seek medical attention. You should also contact a physician if your neck pain is associated with numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands or if you have shooting pain into your shoulder or down your arm.