Your neck is a remarkable feat of human engineering. It is designed to be both strong and extremely movable at the same time. However, nobody is immune to developing neck pain at one point or another in their lives. Accidents and injuries inevitably happen, and wear and tear sometimes take its toll. Your neck is made up of seven cervical vertebrae along with muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels, discs, and other tissues. It has the important job of holding up our heads – balancing a load of about 12 pounds on top of it.
Neck pain can have its roots in many places. Nerves can become irritated, discs can wear thin, joints can develop arthritis, and vertebrae can misalign. There are even common day-to-day things that we might be doing without consciously thinking about it that can be contributing to your neck discomfort.
Neck Pain Habits to Break to Find Relief
- Bad sleep position – how much sleep we need varies from person to person, but most healthy adults should be getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night in order to function at their best. If you’re spending the appropriate amount of time getting some shut-eye, it’s important to take care of your spine during those hours. If you’re waking up with a stiff neck, you may not be keeping your neck in a neutral position throughout the night. Pillows should be at a height where they don’t force your head to bend excessively forward, backward, or to either side. Stomach sleepers might be especially prone to developing neck pain since their heads must be turned to the side through the night.
- You’re glued to your technology – it’s no secret nowadays that our technology habits are causing serious compromise to our posture. People are spending increasing lengths of time with their heads turned down and forward, which puts an extraordinary amount of strain on the lower part of the cervical spine as well as on all of the muscles whose job it is to hold your head up. Whether you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk or on a mobile device, there are things you can do to protect your neck from strain. When sitting at your desk, make sure your computer monitor sits at eye level – most are too low. If that’s the case, an easy solution is to stack a few books underneath to elevate it so that the top of your screen is at eye level. Mobile devices like your smartphone or tablet should be held at eye level as well and not down in your lap to avoid excess stress on your neck.
- Too stressed out – your neck and shoulders tend to be areas that carry a lot of stress. Tensing muscles is one of your body’s ways of reacting to stressful scenarios, and this can lead to neck pain, headaches, clenching or grinding your teeth, shoulder pain, and more. People have many ways of coping with stress. Yoga, meditation, walking, and deep breathing exercises are all great stress-reducing tools. No matter how you choose to mitigate the inevitable stress that comes our way, the important part is that you do something to reduce it and take care of your neck.
- You’re a smoker – aside from the obvious risks of nicotine consumption, it can be a contributing factor to your neck pain. Smoking can cause damage to your spinal discs. Disc degeneration is a common cause of neck pain and discomfort, and continuing to smoke can accelerate this process. Certain chemicals found in cigarettes can decrease the blood supply to your bones and discs, reducing blood flow and nutrient exchange, leading to neck problems.
- You carry around everything but the kitchen sink in your purse – Purses and bags tend to accumulate an overabundance of stuff that you don’t need to be carrying around on a daily basis. Carrying a heavy load over one shoulder causes compromise in the way you walk and stand. Asymmetry and imbalance of this nature over time can lead to neck and back problems. This can be an issue for men too, who carry around overloaded briefcases or messenger-style bags over one shoulder. Emptying out your bag’s contents periodically and shedding some weight can help to protect your neck. Transitioning to a two-strap backpack, or alternating shoulders can help keep things in better balance.
- Your form at the gym or during workouts is suffering – staying active and working out is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. However, if you have developed bad habits and poor form, it can be damaging the ligaments and muscles that support your neck. This is especially true towards the end of a workout when you might be feeling fatigued but determined to get through those last few reps or miles. Working with a personal trainer or having a workout partner who can monitor form and keep you accountable can help save your neck from unnecessary strain.
Still Hurting? Upper Cervical Chiropractic Can Help!
The majority of people are aware that chiropractors can help you to alleviate neck pain, but they may not be aware of upper cervical chiropractic. Upper cervical care is a subspecialty within the chiropractic profession that is specifically focused on addressing the root cause of neck pain. A lot of neck problems begin from the top down. Sitting at the very top of your neck is the most freely movable vertebra in your entire spinal column. Your atlas (C1) dictates your head position, which then influences how the rest of your neck feels and functions.
Upper cervical care works to gently detect and correct atlas misalignments so that your body can heal naturally from neck problems. Each adjustment given is tailor-build for the patient, meaning that no two adjustments are alike. This ability to customize care is what gives upper cervical care a leg up when it comes to accomplishing natural, lasting relief.