While rarely serious and often goes away on its own, neck pain is the kind that can easily ruin one’s day.
A stiff neck limits the head’s range of motion while the pain brought by the sudden jerking could leave one with a headache, as well as shoulder and back strain.
What causes neck pain? An orthopedic doctor from Makati Medical Center lists down five things an individual normally does that can contribute to pain in the neck.
Sitting all day
“Sitting behind a desk leads to postural strain in the neck, back, and shoulders,” says Anne Kathleen Ganal-Antonio, MD of MakatiMed’s Department of Orthopaedics.
To prevent muscle strain, she recommends standing up, stretching, and walking after long periods of time, as well as practicing good posture. “Sit up straight, with your feet flat on the floor. If working with a computer, adjust the placement of your monitor and keyboard to a comfortable level.”
Dr. Ganal-Antonio adds that too much bending down of the neck increases the stress on it, leading to pain. It is best to keep the neck in a neutral position.
Certain workouts (like crunches or yoga positions) and sports (golf, swimming, cycling) can strain the neck if done poorly or in a wrong position.
“Ask your trainer or coach to help you execute the proper form for your workout or sport,” advises Dr. Ganal-Antonio.
“You can also ease neck pain with this simple stretch: Facing forward, slowly bend your head to the right. Hold for three seconds, then go back to your starting position and slowly bend your head to the left. Hold for three seconds then go back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.”
Sleeping the wrong way
“When you sleep on your stomach, your neck is turned to one side. Holding that position for hours strains your neck muscles, giving you that stiff feeling in the morning,” she points out.
Dr. Ganal-Antonio suggests sleeping on back with a pillow underneath the knees to relax the lower back, or on the side with a pillow between the legs.
“Laying your head on a too-high pillow also strains your neck; replace it with a lower one,” she adds. When sleeping sitting down, she says, “travel pillows for the neck are helpful as they support your head.”
Carrying heavy bags
Besides affecting posture, lugging a heavy bag strains the trapezius muscle on the top of the shoulder, and affects nearby body parts like the neck and back. “To ease strain on your neck, shoulders, and back, lessen the amount of things inside your bag,” suggest Dr. Ganal-Antonio.
“Look for bags with wide straps because they distribute the weight of your bag over a wider area. Cross-body bags also evenly distribute the weight. When using backpacks, have this close to your back to provide support. Avoid just using one strap, as this makes the weight and posture uneven.”
Using a smartphone
Taking a call with the phone cradled between the ear and the shoulder or while looking down at the screen can strain the neck.
To address the former, the orthopedist suggests switching cellphone between the left ear and right ear instead of favoring one side to take the call. Meanwhile, to prevent straining the neck from reading, she offers the solution of taking mini-breaks to move and stretch the neck and back, or limit cellphone use to 20 minutes.
“Gentle stretches, a soothing massage, a cold compress for 20 minutes, and over-the-counter pain medication can also alleviate neck pain. But if the pain lasts for more than a week and makes simple movements difficult to do, see your family physician immediately,” she says.
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