You want to know what’s causing your neck pain. But mostly you want to know if it can be fixed.
The good news: If your neck pain is being caused by a structural problem with one or more of the vertebra in your upper spine, it can be fixed. A structurally based chiropractor, like a certified Gonstead chiropractor, can gently help guide the spine back into the correct position so all the bones can move the way they’re supposed to. Not only does your neck pain feel better, but the underlying problem actually gets corrected.
The bad news: The demands of our modern-day lifestyle are creating neck problems left and right. Many of us have to drive in traffic, sit at a desk for many hours a day, sit on the commute home. Sit at dinner. Sit at the kids’ games. Sit. Sit. Sit. This amount of sitting isn’t good for us, and the damage is heightened when we add poor ergonomics at our workstation. Then, you factor in electronic devices and your odds of having neck pain go up even more.
Your neck is designed to bear the weight of your head: 10-12 pounds. When we bend our neck forward to look at our devices, it can increase that weight to almost 60 pounds of pressure on the neck! After looking forward at phones, tablets and laptops for hours upon hours a week, it’s only natural that discomfort develops into a constant ache.
The really good news: You can do something about your neck pain! A good starting point is to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Martin to figure out the main cause of your neck problem.
So your neck hurts. What now?
You might take over-the-counter painkillers, use heat treatment, push through the pain, ignore it, or get an occasional massage. But this is kind of like seeing the oil light come on in your car and sticking a piece of duct tape to cover it it and deciding to leave them that way and just go get your car washed.
If your body’s out of whack, and you leave it that way, the problem will get worse—not better.
Here’s one of the ways that can happen: Let’s say your neck hurts. You take it easy for a couple days, pop some Advil, convince your significant other to give you a neck rub. A few days later, you feel better. You may think that means you are better. In reality, your body is most likely compensating.
In other words, your body found an alternative way to move because the correct way it should be moving is inhibited.
It’s like using a spare tire when your regular tire popped. Everybody knows you only use a spare tire until you can get a real one. Unfortunately, not everybody realizes that continuing to “drive” the body in a compromised position will result in major long-term problems.
We usually think of pain as a bad thing. It’s not.
Pain is a signal our bodies use to tell us that something is wrong. That’s why, if we treat the pain and not the cause, we do ourselves a disservice (and end up with more pain in the end). If you have neck pain, it’s because it’s in the wrong position. A good chiropractor is trained to put it back in the right position and combat the source of the pain, not just the surface symptom.
Schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Martin to find out if a structural misalignment in your spine is causing your neck pain.
What causes neck pain?
Not so long ago, people thought that neck injuries had to come from some major incident. A car accident, a major fall, that kind of thing. But more and more, people who never had any major neck injuries are beginning to realize that the “stiffness” in their neck isn’t going away… actually, it only seems to get worse. What gives?
Maybe you’ve seen those cartoons that depict evolution in reverse. A blob-like creature evolves into a monkey, which evolves into a stooped-over Neanderthal, which evolves into an upright man. Then the posture begins to devolve into an ape-like figure hunched over a laptop or smart phone. The cartoons are funny, but if you’ve had experience with neck pain, you know it’s not funny at all in real life.
Computers and smart phones aren’t the only causes of neck pain. Students who haul around 30-pound backpacks will likely suffer later. Folks who always carry a purse or shoulder bag on the same side are likely to feel pain in their neck and shoulders. Driving, playing video games, TV lounging, physical labor, playing an instrument, golfing, swimming, performing surgery…. all these activities can lead to repetitive strain, misalignment, and a host of other problems.
Childhood is full of bumps and falls—learning to walk, goofing around on the playground, riding a bike, playing sports. These kinds of “minor” accidents can knock the spine out of alignment and, if it’s not corrected, the vertebrae will heal the wrong way and develop into bigger problems in adulthood.
7 Everyday Causes of Neck Pain
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 range from stress at work to old injuries to structural problems in your spine. Here are seven that may come as a surprise to you, and suggestions what to do if you find your life is impacted from a persistent pain in the neck.
1. Stress can cause neck pain.
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 by 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.
2. Illness can lead to neck pain.
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.
To relieve pain in the neck from illness remember to:
- 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.
3. Your neck or back pain might be coming from your pillow or mattress.
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. If you notice a sag, hear creaks, or feel sore and unrested, it’s likely you need a new mattress.
A mattress should offer support without being too soft or firm. If it’s too soft, you’ll sink into it, which will cause bad pain. If it’s too firm, you’ll also have back pain, hip pain, and neck pain at pressure points.
The right pillow will have an indentation where the head can rest comfortably. It will also have a shelf of support on the neck so the neck can retain a healthy curve while you sleep. Be careful! Some pillows have too large of a neck shelf. This can force your neck to strain as you sleep. Others have a shelf with little support and so will collapse. A pillow that is fitted correctly to the shape of your neck will make a big difference.
If you are a patient in our office, you can bring in your pillow or photos of your mattress for me to check. If you’re not currently a patient and have read this far… what are you waiting for?
4. Your keyboard can make your neck hurt.
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.
To relieve neck pain from your 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.
5. Your phone can cause “text neck.”
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. And it’s causing a lot of disc problems that lead to secondary problems like neck pain, shoulder pain, and headaches. Even worse, all that pressure on the discs can lead to other health problems that interrupt our sleep, digestion, energy level, and mobility.
To relieve “text neck” pain:
- Raise the phone to eye level while you’re using it.
- Use a headset that allows you to dictate instead of type your texts so you aren’t constantly looking down at the phone.
- Limit your phone use.
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.
6. Your purse or backpack can cause neck problems.
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.
Relieving pain from your purse or backpack:
- 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.
7. Your wallet might be hurting your neck.
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 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.
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 at 919-794-4455 or schedule by clicking the button below.
Can chiropractic help an athlete? Dr. Martin discusses a college athlete's lower back before and after care. To watch this on our YouTube channel click here.
Can a chiropractor help headaches? Here Dr. Martin explains how chiropractic can fix headaches, vertigo, and neck pain. To watch this on our YouTube channel click here.
Unless we are mandated to close for a period of time, or unless I get sick, I will keep the office open. I'll explain why and I'll let you know what we are doing in response to the concerns. Before I get to that, I'll mention something on a personal note... I am...
Get Relief from Neck Pain
I had never visited a chiropractor before I entered Dr. Martin’s office. I had suffered with intense neck pain for several months. Dr. Martin was supportive, sympathetic and with lots of work on both our parts, my neck no longer hurts. Along the way, I learned how to take care of it for the long term and continue to see Dr. Martin regularly for adjustments. I recommend Dr. Martin to all my acquaintances! He is concerned with not only the spine but the whole body and person.
At Precision Chiropractic of Durham, a consultation is a conversation, not a commitment.
Before we ever talk about chiropractic care, we want to hear about you and what brought you to our office. Once we understand your health and wellness goals, we’ll have a better understanding of how Gonstead chiropractic care can help you get the results you want.