Statistically speaking, one in ten people reading this post suffer from neck pain — whether from strain, degenerative disc disease, or whiplash. Since neck strain is more within our realm of control, we will focus on treatment and prevention of strain in this post.
Even if you are not one of the unlucky 10% today, chances are you have experienced neck strain at some point in your life with symptoms like neck pain, stiffness, and tightness of the shoulders and upper back. While symptoms are typically not severe enough to keep you out of work, it can make for a miserable few days or weeks. Interestingly, many cases of neck strain are simply caused by poor posture or sleeping position.
Given the common causes of neck strain, one important measure to take (for both treatment and prevention) involves posture modification. When seated, you should sit upright and make it a point to prevent your shoulders from slouching forward. Prolonged sitting is also a risk factor for neck strain, and frequent standing or walking should be incorporated into your work day. While sleeping, you should support your neck with a small pillow and ensure that your spine is in alignment (i.e.: your head is not too low or too high).
Simple neck exercises can also be very beneficial. Make sure you work the entire range of motion of your neck with the following exercises:
- Chin tuck: slowly tuck your chin down towards your chest and slowly return to a neutral position
- Head turn: slowly turn your head to the left, pushing gently against the right side of your chin with your right hand. Hold for a few seconds and then repeat to the right.
- Head tilt: slowly tilt your left ear down towards your left shoulder, pushing down gently against the right side of your head. Hold for a few seconds and then repeat to the right.
- Shoulder roll: slowly pinch your shoulder blades together while gently rolling your shoulders upwards and forwards in a circular movement.
There are many other therapies out there for neck pain, but these simple suggestions for posture and home exercise can go a long way in the treatment and prevention of neck strain. If your symptoms are severe or persistent, or if you have any associated numbness, tingling, or neurological symptoms with your neck pain, consult your doctor.