Credit: Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research – Chiropractic Healthways – Issue 142
There are many things you can do to avoid neck pain. Learning proper postures and working to retrain your body to hold these postures at all times will decrease muscle fatigue and the likelihood of injury.
Have you ever witnessed the enthusiasm of new parents when their baby holds up his or her head for the first time? Have you ever watched a circus performer balance a bowling ball on the end of a broomstick and been impressed by the skill? You’d be amazed at the similarity between these two feats! And why are you impressed? You do it every day. You balance a 10 pound mass (your head) on the top of a stack of blocks (your cervical spine) and you are able to move that mass (your head) around by tightening and/or loosening some strings (your neck and shoulder muscles). Where’s your applause?
Well, your chiropractor applauds you. And he or she would like to provide you with a few pointers (though you are doing a splendid job) to help you reduce the risk of injury to your neck and suggestions on when to get professional help for neck pain.
Care of Your Neck
There are many things you can do to avoid neck pain. Learning proper postures and working to retrain your body to hold these postures at all times will decrease muscle fatigue and the likelihood of injury. Also, learning to recognize the signs of stress and muscle tension, as well as ways to alleviate stress, will enable you to relax before tension becomes so bad it causes pain. Ask your Doctor of Chiropractic to recommend and demonstrate good relaxation techniques.
Other neck saving strategies include:
- Position your computer monitor so that you don’t have to look at it from an awkward position. Your monitor should be at eye level, directly in front of you, and the center of the screen should be even with your chin when your head is upright. Also keep any material that you will be working from in a position that requires minimal head turning. Many office supply stores sell various versions of paper or copy stands that attach next to the computer screen.
- If you spend alot of time on the phone, use a telephone headset or speakerphone, especially if you type or write while on the phone and balance the phone between your ear and your shoulder. Request that your employer provide you with a headset or consider buying your own.
- When carrying shoulder bags, frequently switch the shoulder that carries the weight. When using a backpack, use both straps so that the weight is distributed to both shoulders. And when traveling, choose luggage that is stable on wheels and has a handle long enough to prevent walking along hunched over.
- DO NOT sleep on your stomach. Try to sleep on your back or on your side with a pillow to support your neck and a pillow to support your knees (under your knees when your on your back , between your knees when on your side).
- Avoid reaching or watching television in bed. Too often, this requires lying on your side with the head propped up by an arm bent at the elbow. This position stresses both your neck and your wrist.
There are many other things that people do every day without realizing that over time they can lead to neck pain and stiffness. If you follow the above advice and still have frequent neck pain, consult your Doctor of Chiropractic who will help you to pinpoint the cause(s) of your pain so that you can work at preventing it from happening again.
When To Seek Professional Help
If you have neck pain and stiffness that lasts for longer than 24 hours, call your chiropractor for an appointment – you will need to be sure it is not a condition that needs attention. You should seek immediate care if you are involved in an accident since you may have suffered from whiplash, an injury that occurs when you are struck unexpectedly (most often from behind) and your neck whips in the opposite direction of your body. Common symptoms of whiplash include headache, neck pain and stiffness, dizziness, visual disturbances, or pain in the shoulders or arms. Symptoms may not appear until days after the accident, which is why immediate examination is necessary to begin the healing process. If you have neck pain that worsens when you cough, laugh, or sneeze, spreads into the shoulders and arms, or if you also have nausea, headache, visual disturbances, or dizziness, you need to seek care immediately.
Your Doctor of Chiropractic will begin your appointment with detailed history and examination (looking especially for any recent events that may have triggered your pain). Anything you think may play a role in your pain should be brought to the attention of your doctor. And don’t be afraid or embarrassed that it wont help-if it doesn’t provide clues as to the cause of your discomfort, it may provide information on the treatment best suited for you.
Chiropractic treatment may include spinal adjustment or manipulation, a specific procedure that may relieve nerve pressure, relax muscles, and/or restore normal motion to the spine. The spinal adjustment is a very skilled procedure that should never be attempted by someone who does not have the necessary years of training and experience. In some instances, depending on the cause of neck pain, spinal manipulation is NOT recommended, so do not expect every visit to the chiropractor to include an adjustment. Spinal adjustments are prescribed at specific sites, with specific force, and only following a thorough examination which determine whether the procedure is appropriate. Never accept adjustments or manipulations from a person who is not expertly well-educated in all aspects of the procedure.
Chiropractic doctors often use other noninvasive, drugless therapies in their treatment. These may include, but are not limited to, ultrasound, electric muscle stimulation, moist heat or cold therapy. Any changes in posture that you need to make, or changes in exercise, diet and nutrition, or other habits that will improve your health and well-being will also be discussed with you.
If your Doctor of Chiropractic finds that another type of health care would be more appropriate for your case, a referral will be made. If at any time you have questions regarding your treatment or recovery, ASK your doctor. He or she wants to ensure the quickest, most complete recovery possible, and your participation in treatment is vital.