If you’re one of the nearly 50% of adults who suffer from neck pain, you know the secondary effects of frustration, irritability, immobility, and even depression.
Neck pain is common, but it’s not normal. But if it’s not normal, why do so many adults suffer? What causes neck pain—exactly? And is there a way to avoid it altogether or at least find some relief when the pain flares up?
The causes of neck pain seem limitless—and can range from structural problems due to a misalignment in your spinal cord to having too much stress at work. For our purposes, I’m going to stick to seven causes of neck pain that may come as a surprise to you—and what to do if you find your life is impacted from a persistent pain in the neck.
Neck Pain from Stress
Stress affects our body in many different ways. It may seem odd that one of those ways is by causing neck pain, but it’s true. When we’re emotionally stressed from worry, anxiety, fear, life changes, deadlines, etc, we often tense the muscles in the neck and shoulders. As the muscles remain tight, pain develops. Without removing the stress, neck pain will increase.
Alleviating Neck Pain Caused From Stress
Obviously, the best way to remove neck pain from stress is to find what’s causing the stress in your life and try to reduce it. However, that’s often not possible, in which case, we can focus on relieving the pain rather than removing it. Try these three ways to relieve neck pain caused by stress and sore muscles:
- Seated shoulder rolls and shoulder lifts.
- Gentle head movements to the right and left, and also in a slow circle.
- Place a lacrosse ball behind your shoulders. Stand against the wall and gently rock the ball to loosen tight muscles in the shoulders and neck.
When we’re sick, our immune system fights to get us back to health. The overall body aches and pains that accompany sickness can present as pain in the neck. It’s not only that our muscles are sore: it’s that we often slouch forward, rest on our elbows, and have poor posture when we’re not feeling well. This places strain on our discs, joints, and muscles, and causes neck pain as a secondary effect of illness.
Alleviating Neck Pain Caused From Illness
Our bad posture exasperates neck pain, so to relieve pain in the neck from illness, try to remember:
- Sit up straight when you’re sitting at your desk without leaning on the armrests with your elbows.
- Avoid propping your neck up with pillows at an odd angle when you’re watching TV or text on the phone. Compromised posture always leads to neck pain, and we tend to be less aware of our posture when we’re already feeling weak from illness.
A woman in her 80s complained to me about back pain. I asked about her mattress, and she told me she was using the same one she bought right before she got married at 18.
That’s an exceptional case, but I do find many people overlook the possibility of a poor mattress when they have neck pain. When we don’t have good support while we sleep, our body experiences strain at the pressure points. This can cause all sorts of problems: hip pain, headaches, and neck pain. But there is something we can do about it. [Read this article on sleeping with pain, which includes tips on choosing a mattress.]
So, here’s the thing. Most of us spend enormous amounts of time at our computers. Laptops particularly can cause neck pain because if we place the laptop in a position where it’s comfortable to type, we have to crane our neck down to look at the screen.
When we’re sitting at a regular desktop computer, the position of the keyboard determines the height of our shoulders. If it’s too high or too low, our shoulders will be elevated or stretched incorrectly for long periods of time. This will most certainly cause shoulder and neck pain. The answer: better ergonomics at the desk.
Alleviating Neck Pain Caused By the Keyboard
- Sit at your desk with your hands relaxed by your side.
- Lift your hands so they are parallel to the floor. This is the height you want to place your keyboard.
- Now, raise the screen of your device so that your eyes are level with the top of the screen.
Have you heard of Text Neck? It’s a real thing! And it’s causing a lot of disc problems that lead to secondary problems like neck pain, shoulder pain, and headaches.
But even more than that … all that pressure on the discs also cause other health problems that interrupt our sleep, digestion, energy level, and mobility. Text neck is just as it sounds: pain in the neck due to too much time looking down at your phone. It puts way too much weighted pressure on the vertebrae in our neck.
Another way our phone causes neck pain is when we balance the phone between our ear and our shoulder as we talk on the phone. Remove the strain this puts on the vertebrae, and on the muscles in the shoulders and neck by investing in a good headset.
Alleviating Neck Pain Caused From Your Phone
- One way to reduce the damage caused by Text Neck is to raise the phone to eye level while you’re using it.
- Another suggestion is to use a headset that allows you to dictate instead of type your texts so you aren’t constantly looking down at the phone.
- The easiest recommendation to remove neck pain from the phone is to limit your phone use.
If you’re suffering from neck pain as a result of text neck, please come to our office for a free consultation. Text Neck is more than muscle strain: it’s actually a condition called “Anterior Head Syndrome” and it causes lasting health problems that won’t fix themselves without adjusting the vertebrae in the spine to relieve pressure from the discs.
Your Purse & Backpack
Pressure on the shoulder leads to neck pain, and one of the biggest culprits is the bags we use to transport our “stuff and things” throughout the day. Kids backpacks cause back pain and neck pain. Adult bags—whether purses, computer bags, travel bags—can get very heavy and result in the same problem: straining muscles that lead to shoulder and neck pain.
One way to combat this is to carry a lighter load. Use the locker or the car as a base camp and then pull out what you need depending on the task at hand. Often, a wristlet is all you’ll need in the store, for example, so remove the essentials and leave the rest in the car.
Alleviating Neck Pain Caused From Your Purse or Backpack
If a basecamp solution is not possible, consider these options:
- Choose a bag or backpack with wheels so you can remove weight from the shoulder and avoid neck pain.
- Alternate carrying sides so you can balance some of the weight of the bag.
- Tighten the backpack straps so it’s snug against the back. A heavy bag will pull on the shoulder blades and increase neck pain.
So, this may come as a surprise to you, but a wallet in your back pocket can cause neck pain!
The reason for that is when you sit on your wallet, you raise the ischial bone while also compressing the sciatic nerve. The result is not only possible sciatic pain but also head, shoulder and neck pain. That’s because when you sit on a wallet, the entire side of your body is raised, unbalanced, and misaligned the entire time you’re sitting.
This causes immense stress to the pressure points in your legs, hips and lower back. The result could be neck pain, as the body compensates any way it can to overcome the improper alignment.
Alleviating Neck Pain Caused From Your Wallet
- If possible, move the wallet to front pocket. (Though, be careful. This could create problems of its own. Maybe not neck pain, but it could stop the vascular flow, so make sure your pants are loose and comfortable.)
- Place the wallet in your inside pocket of your jacket.
- Consider an over-the-shoulder wallet bag.
Pain in the neck is caused by many different factors. For best results to permanent relief from neck pain, consult Dr. Martin at Precision Chiropractic of Durham. During your free consultation, you’ll discover what thousands of happy clients already know: the real secret to long-term relief from neck pain is natural and safe chiropractic care. Call us to put your body in its best self-healing state so you can enjoy the pain-free life you deserve.