How can I prevent my neck and shoulders from getting neck pains and slipping a desk?
This is a great question that I noticed on Quora recently. It's something I actually think about regularly (especially when i do something I shouldn't do and I have neck pain). What can I personally do to keep my neck and shoulders health?
I know we don’t live in a perfect world - and things are going to happen. But lets quickly mention a few things you can do keep your neck and shoulder area as healthy as possible.
- Be aware of how much you are lifting and HOW you are lifting (your technique).
- When you are playing with a toddler or a child and “rough” playing, be careful and vigilant. A child can unknowingly bring your head and neck into a particular position rather quickly - directly and instantly causing a neck sprain/strain and whiplash. I just spoke with a grandmother who has been having pain for 2 years because of one incident where her grandson hugged her too tightly from behind and brought her neck back. Personally, I am a mom to a 4 year old active boy - I speak from experience. Yes, play with your children, but take some precautions.
- Do neck stretches. Keep the neck in motion to keep the neck and cervical spine mobile. Motion is life. Doing your stretching during a hot shower is very beneficial too.
- Watch out for text neck or tech neck - the act of looking down on your iphone, your ipad, any electronic device for long stretches of time. Believe me this is easier done than you think. Waiting around in a doctors office waiting room, sitting at a red light, waiting for your car to to get fixed… you get the point. Watch your posture all all times, especially when using a device. This is just too commonplace these days. I know 5 and 6 year old that have a mobile phone.
- Use a contoured neck pillow at night. It will help the curvature in your neck and give you good posture while sleeping. Get a pillow that you can sleep comfortably on your side and on your back. One more thing, is it time to replace your neck pillow? Fiber pillows do break down over time which is normal.
- Some people like my husband sneeze very violently. You know those sneezes. The ones you feel the floor beneath you reverberating and the ones that make you jump when you hear them. If you sneeze like that regularly this can really throw your neck, upper back and shoulders out. Brace yourself when you know a sneeze is coming on. Also do a good job of cleaning our your nose regularly.
- Be Careful at the gym. No need to be the weekend hero and throw out your shoulder, neck or back by lifting too much at one time. Easing into lifting little by little is the best way to go. It's not worth it to overdo it at the gym. You not only set yourself back but you're in pain after going to the gym. Again, I speak from experience. I know of an elderly neighbor that improperly used a machine in our clubhouse. She also lifted too much weight. Well as a result she tore a tendon, and had to have surgery to repair it.
- Keep your spine in alignment. When the spine is in alignment, the discs are held in place. Maintain good neck posture. Many people who have forward head posture set themselves for bad alignment and neck pain and shoulder down the line. Also be aware of your shoulders at work. Some people keep their shoulders scrunched up when they are in a stress situation. This aggravates the neck, shoulders and upper back. The key here is that these bad postures take time to manifest as pain- years and years before you can start having regular pain because of it. Do neck retraction exercises. Bottom line, be aware of your posture. Relax your shoulders, watch your head and neck posture.
- If you are in one position for a long time move around and stretch out a bit.
- Drink more water. Sounds easy right? I have said this to many patients and asked them what do they drink on a daily basis. Water is last on their list sometimes. Somehow coffee, tea, juice, pop, gatorade and alcoholic drinks are higher up. Crazy but true. This simple act of drinking water keeps the disc healthy and hydrated. That mean you are less likely to get injured as well.
- Massage your neck muscles. The occipital muscles are cause of many headaches and neck pain. Put your hands over your ears and you thumbs fall on the occipital muscles. Hold for 7 seconds, then relax. Move to a different spot and repeat. Do this a few times. Once in a while using a natural pain relief gel such as biofreeze or sombra can also help with muscle spasm and trigger points.
- Don't sleep on your stomach. This really aggravates the neck, shoulders and upper back area. Its just not normal to be in this position. Use a pillow under your stomach that simulates sleeping on your stomach- such at the tear drop pillow. This special pillow helps you transtion from being a stomach sleeper to a side sleeper.
Oprah said it best: When we know better, we do better - its the same thing for keeping a healthy neck. Do things a little differently especially when you know what is right. Hope this helps - Nav
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