You sit at a desk in front of a computer screen for too many hours each day. You stare down at your phone, scrolling through social media while standing in line at the grocery store. Perhaps your job requires you to drive for long periods of time.
Combine these factors with a lifetime of poor posture, and you’ve got a stiff neck more often than not. What other ways is your lifestyle fueling your neck pain?
Dr. Andrew Leitzke, and the skilled chiropractic team at Pro Rehab Chiropractic and Rehabilitation, with nine locations throughout Delaware, are experts at identifying and treating the underlying causes of your neck pain so you can get long-term relief from stiff, sore neck muscles. Here are some lifestyle changes you can make to alleviate neck pain.
Common causes of neck pain
The good news is that neck pain is rarely a sign of a serious health issue, but that doesn’t change the fact that a stiff neck is a frequent complaint among many Americans today. And, some of the most common causes of neck pain are the result of our lifestyles, including:
- Leaning forward to see your computer screen
- Hunching over a workbench
- Driving for several hours a day
- Poor posture standing and sitting
- Using a pillow that lacks support
- Looking down at your smartphone
Additionally, stress and anxiety over our jobs, families, and other concerns can lead to tight neck muscles.
So, what can you do about your neck pain? Can you minimize it without quitting your job or throwing away your smartphone? With a few small adjustments, you can relieve your neck pain and release tension from strained muscles in your neck and shoulders.
How to relieve neck pain
We understand that you may not want to (or can’t) quit your desk job in front of a computer, but you can improve your posture at your desk.
At the office
If possible, get an ergonomic chair that properly supports your spine, or use a cushioned back support in your existing chair. Make sure you’re seated at the correct height to view your screen.
If you’re able to stand at your desk with your computer screen at a proper height, take turns standing and sitting. Just be sure your screen adjusts to the proper height in both positions.
Your computer monitor should be positioned so the top of the screen is at, or slightly below, eye level, so the center of your screen is about 15-20 degrees below horizontal eye level. If you wear bifocals or progressive lenses, maybe adjust the height of your screen slightly higher so you don’t have to crane your neck upward to see through your glasses.
Whether you’re standing or sitting, you want your computer screen at a comfortable, neutral level that doesn’t force you to tilt your head up or down for many hours a day. When your neck remains in a neutral position, you help take stress and tension off the muscles in your neck and shoulders.
Set your monitor about arm’s length away from you, directly in the center of your desk so you don’t have to twist your neck to view the screen. Take frequent breaks to look away from your computer, stretch your neck and shoulders, roll your shoulders, and walk around the office.
If you frequently wake up with a stiff neck, you may need a pillow or mattress with more support. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, which puts strain on your neck as you twist your head from side to side on your pillow.
Apply ice or heat to your neck and shoulders to alleviate pain from tense muscles. You can also engage in slow, range-of-motion exercises — nodding your head forward and back, turning slowly side to side, and tilting your head as if trying to touch your ear to your shoulder. These slow, gentle stretches can reduce neck tension and help strained neck and shoulder muscles.
If you travel frequently, invest in a neck pillow to use on airplanes or in hotels. Or, if you drive long hours each day, stop frequently to get out and stretch your neck and shoulders.
Improve your posture
Every time you look down at your phone, you contribute to poor posture and “tech neck.” Hold your phone at eye level so your neck is in a neutral position when viewing. Slouching while you sit or stand doesn’t help either. Stand up straight and sit in a way that supports your neck when you watch TV.
If your neck pain doesn’t go away with lifestyle adjustments, you may have a herniated disc, osteoarthritis, or another degenerative condition. Call one of our convenient Pro Rehab offices in Wilmington, Newark, Lewes, Camden, or Middletown, Delaware, or schedule a consultation online.