We’ve all woken up a stiff neck, and while it’s painful, it’s seldom life-threatening. Neck pain is usually a result of muscle strain, whiplash or age-related conditions like osteoarthritis. Nerve compression owing to a herniated disc is also another cause. On rare instances, it may be a result of diseases like meningitis and cancer.
According to a survey, 31 percent of Americans have neck pain or back pain. Sufferers also show more psychological distress. In another survey, 36 percent of Americans lost their jobs because of chronic neck or back pain. The figures throw light on an important question: is there anything that can be done to minimize symptoms or even prevent them from occurring in the first place? The answer is yes. And it starts at home.
We try our best to exercise our bodies but often leave our necks unattended which can cause strain. Along with your regular exercise, try to incorporate neck stretches in your daily routine. An easy stretch is to lower your chin, hold for 10 seconds, and tilt it towards the ceiling, holding for another 10 seconds.
Another is to tilt your head to your shoulder, hold for 5-10 seconds, and repeat the process on the other side. You can also do shoulder rolls by raising your shoulders up and rotating them in a circle, first moving forward and then back. Try to perform these stretches a few times each day to loosen muscles and prevent pain.
Neck massages are another way to relieve strain as they work out the knots. You can do it yourself too. Drop your chin to your chest and place three fingers where your neck meets your shoulders. Press down and hold until you feel your muscles relax. Do this whenever your neck feels a little tight or as often as possible.
If your neck pain isn’t caused by an injury or a disease, you can reduce the strain by applying ice and heat. Ice works to numb pain and prevents swelling while heat relaxes the muscles and improves circulation. You should apply ice packs initially and follow it with heat after a few days. Alternate between the two to prevent the area from swelling.
Neck pain flare-ups can make doing anything difficult, and if you’ve experienced a burst of pain, it’s best to take it easy for a couple of days. Try to avoid doing things that make the pain worse. However, don’t stay in bed for too long since prolonged rest can weaken and tighten muscles. As soon as you’re able to, start moving but do so slowly and carefully until the pain goes away.
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Trying to maintain one’s posture is hard especially when you’re frequently on your phone or hunched over a laptop. But the fact is, these activities place a lot of strain on the neck as they cause it to angle awkwardly. Instead of pushing your head in front of your shoulders or slouching when you sit or stand, try to keep your shoulders aligned with your hips. Your ears should also be positioned right over your shoulders and not too far forward or back.
Even the way you sleep can have an impact on neck pain. Your spine should be aligned when you sleep otherwise it can cause pain along its length. The ideal sleeping positions are on your side and on your back. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach especially if you tend to turn your head to the side.
Side-sleepers, in order to prevent your head from twisting awkwardly, use a pillow that’s higher under the neck than under your head. This will provide the support your neck needs and keep it positioned properly. Back-sleepers, on the other hand, should use a thinner pillow to prevent the head and neck from tilting too far forward as this will cause pain.
A surprising culprit of neck pain is a poorly designed or old mattress. One that’s too soft won’t be able to align the spine and will cause it to bend unnaturally. One that’s too hard, on the other hand, will create gaps under the neck and won’t support it. What you need is a supportive and comfortable mattress.
Nuvanna is one such mattress as its three-layered construction aims to do just that. The top layer consists of phase-changing gel particles that draw away body heat and disperse it so that you feel cool while sleeping. The middle layer eliminates motion so that you and your partner’s movements don’t disturb each other. The bottom layer gives support to your body and keeps it from sinking. Designed by an industry expert with more than two decades of experience, Nuvanna promises to help you sleep better.
Neck pain is common, and a number of things can lead to stress and discomfort. While more serious causes like disc herniation and rheumatoid arthritis need medical attention, there are things you can do to manage the pain or even prevent it from happening. Practicing good posture, sleeping in the right positions, and using mattresses and pillows to support your head and neck can make a big difference in your health and quality of life.