Have you woken after a sleep and realised you cannot move your head to one side, or you are forced to turn your whole body to look in a certain direction? This is acute neck pain, it comes on suddenly, most likely from having your neck in an awkward position for an extended period of time. Neck pain can also creep up on us over weeks or months, again, the likely cause is a stagnant neck position. Below are some simple tips to help you prevent the onset of neck pain.
1. SLEEPING POSITION
Back Sleeping - Sleeping on your back is often the best position for the neck and spine. It allows a restful position for the body with little stress on the neck. This is not always comfortable for some, aim to start on your back and over time you will learn to find this to be a suitable position. Side sleeping - Is your next best option. As with sleeping on your back, it's important that the spine is in a neutral position.
Stomach sleeping - causes the neck to be rotated to one side as well as hyper-extended. This is probably the least preferred position for those suffering neck problems.
Pillow position - Be mindful not to hunch the pillow under your shoulders, if your shoulders are on the pillow it will not allow your neck to be in a neutral position.
Check out http://posturedirect.com/what-is-the-best-sleeping-position/ for some great information on sleeping positions; including illustrations on neutral position.
2. PILLOW TYPE
Pillow selection is a personal preference, there is no 'best pillow', regardless of what you are told, it depends on the position you sleep and your preference. There are a few tips to selecting and using a suitable pillow. Contour pillows are best for back and side sleepers. When on your back, have the contour pillow on the lower side; when on your side change it to the higher side to prevent misalignment of the neck and to achieve a neutral neck position. Stomach sleepers should opt for a thinner pillow to allow the neck to aim to be in a neutral position. Regardless of your pillow, the important thing is to ensure a neutral neck position.
Our bodies are made to move, when your body is stuck in the same position for an extended period of time, it complains. Think about how you feel after a long plane or car ride. Regular neck movement throughout the day is the key to keeping neck pain at bay. Gentle neck mobilisations including rotations from side to side, looking up as far as you can and looking down so your chin touches your chest. Do this each hour for one minute.
4. COMPUTER & MOBILE PHONE USE - WATCH YOUR POSITION
In an ideal world you would avoid using these items as much as possible, reality requires us to be working on a computer for at least 8 hours a day. When working on a computer, make sure the screen is at eye level so you are not looking up or down for an extended period of time. When reading items on your mobile phone, bring the phone up to eye level, again, to avoid looking down for an extended period of time. Don't tuck your phone between your ear and shoulder, use a headset.
5. REDUCE STRESS AND TENSION
I hear people saying, "I carry my stress on my shoulders". Headaches, neck, and shoulder pain can be attributed to stress, often people tense their neck and shoulder muscles which can lead to neck pain and headaches (tension headaches). Implementing coping strategies during stressful periods will aid in reducing your likelihood of neck pain. Regular breaks at work, yoga, meditation, stretching, talking to a friend about your problems and physical exercise are all strategies that work well in reducing stress.