6 ways to avoid a pain in the neck

The average human head weighs about as much as a bowling ball, yet it rests atop seven of the smallest, lightest vertebrae in your spinal column. Here are six ways to prevent this literal "pain in the neck."

6 ways to avoid a pain in the neck

1. Pull up on your string

  • Think of yourself as a puppet with a string coming out of the top of your head. Now imagine that someone's pulling on that string, causing you to sit (or stand) straight and hold your head high, with your chin tucked in slightly. That's the position you want to be in most of the time
  • Instead, many of us sit, drive and even walk on the treadmill with our heads thrust forward, which puts strain on the neck
  • To help you sit up straight at the computer, use armrests and adjust your monitor so that your eyes are looking near the top of the screen
  • While driving, adjust your seat and headrest so you don't have to crane your neck forward to see the road

2. Downsize your pillows

  • Sleeping on a big stack of pillows or just one high pillow inevitably means your neck will be out of line with the rest of your spine while you sleep
  • It's better to use a small pillow — and sleep on your back or side, not on your stomach
  • If you're prone to neck pain, a neck pillow is the best way to go (you'll need to sleep on your back to use it)

3. Move every 30 minutes

  • If you're e-mailing the kids, knitting a sweater or working on that oil painting, it's easy to get lost in the flow and sit in an unnatural position for too long, straining your back, shoulder and neck muscles
  • Set an alarm or kitchen timer to ring every 20 to 30 minutes. Each time it chimes, stand up and walk around for a few minutes
  • An Italian study found that when office workers were trained to practice relaxation and stretching exercises several times a day to stop "clenching" their neck and shoulder muscles, they had 54 percent less neck and shoulder pain compared with a control group, whose pain dropped by only four percent

4. Warm up your neck

  • Wet a towel, wring it out and warm it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Then wrap it around your neck and keep it on until it loses its heat
  • Do this before performing neck exercises to loosen up the muscles

5. Lighten the load

  • Carrying an overstuffed purse slung on one shoulder is a leading cause of neck pain for many women because it pulls the body out of balance. One doctor, tired of hearing his patients complain about neck pain, started weighing their purses and found that many tipped the scales at three to 4.5 kilograms (seven to 10 pounds)
  • If you must carry a lot of stuff, use a backpack to evenly distribute the weight

6. Watch your phone posture 

  • If you're talking on a land line a lot, avoid scrunching the phone between your ear and shoulder
  • When using a cell phone, use an earpiece

Nature designed your neck to curve slightly backward to keep your head from flopping over. But years of bad posture, computer work, driving and sleeping on sagging mattresses or big pillows can erase that curve, leading to pain. Injuries (think whiplash) and plain old stress also contribute. But with attention and care, you can help ease the burden and find ways to relieve your neck pain.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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