Our necks are one of our most precious possessions. The neck is important because it surrounds and protects the spinal cord, holds up the head and skull, and allows us to move and turn our head: Too often we find ourselves with a tense, sore, or painful neck.
Neck pain can come from standing or sitting too long, from looking too long in a certain direction (up, down or to the side), or even from relaxing or sleeping in the wrong positions. One of the best things you can do for neck health is support the natural curve of your neck.
Normal head posture is with the head balanced over the shoulders with a nice “C” curve when looking at someone from the side. A head that sits too far forward or has its curve gone can become painful due to muscular fatigue. Keeping your head over the shoulders during the day and a using proper neck support pillow at night can help preserve the normal curve in your neck.
If your neck is ever in a lot of pain, the first line of defense is to use an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time, a few times during the day. This will take the edge off it and provide some relief until you can get some chiropractic care.
For those who sit all day, you can reduce neck fatigue and pain by sitting in a chair with good back support, looking straight ahead at your monitor at eye level, and by using a headset or speaker phone rather than holding the phone between your head and shoulder. Have your reading material as close to eye level as possible and not flat on your desk. Stretch and walk around every 45 minutes.
If you stand all day and you have flat feet, you can have back and neck pain. Getting shoe inserts called “orthotics” will provide the needed arch support to fix flat feet.
Its best not to sleep on your stomach — sleep on your back or side. If you sleep on your back at all, use a good neck support pillow that supports its curve. Doing neck stretches and strengthening exercises will help you prevent trouble. Here’s a good stretch to use if your head is forward on your shoulders. Pull your head back (like a turtle) without lifting the chin. Keep your chin tucked down and draw back as far as you comfortably can. Hold it for 3 seconds and do it 10 times a day.
For a good neck stretch, put your head slowly down in front, and then tilt it all the way back. Then rotate your neck by slowly turning it from side to side without straining. Do this slowly and stop if you have pain — soreness is ok but not pain.
For strengthening, press your forehead into your palms, resisting any forward motion with your hands. Then clasp your hands behind your head and press your head back — resist any motion with your hands. Here’s to your healthy, pain-free neck!