Neck problems are the curse of the modern age. Nearly everyone suffers a neck problem at some point in their life and they are usually attributed to our sedentary lifestyle, bad posture or accidents. Here you will learn more about how to treat neck problems and how to prevent them from recurring in the future.
The anatomy of the human neck
The neck is the top section of the spinal column. It is made up of seven cervical vertebrae which are the same types of bones that are found in the rest of the spine. Each one of these small bones is connected to others through joints. The softer, padded substance in the joint spaces are called the “intervertebral disc”. The whole area is held together with a system of ligaments. The complex anatomy of the area allows us to move our neck (and head) in all sorts of directions but also makes the area vulnerable to problems.
Problems with the cervical vertebrae can present as a pain in the back of the neck, but it can also spread to the back or the shoulders. This pain can limit the movement of the neck. It can prevent you from turning your head to one side or the other. The pain may be accompanied by tingling, numbness, dizziness, or headaches.
What are the causes neck pain?
A sudden accident is one common cause of neck pain. We have all heard of the classic whiplash injury following a car accident but necks get injured in sporting accidents, slips, trips and falls and accidents in work as well. Apart from sudden trauma, here are the other most common causes of neck pain:
- Bad posture while reading or watching television
- A computer screen that’s either too high or too low
- Sleeping in an uncomfortable position or using a poorly designed mattress or pillow
- Twisting or turning your neck too quickly while doing exercise
- Keeping a lot of tension in your neck – which could be due to anxiety
- Spending many hours sitting or standing in a bad position – for example at work
- Muscle weakness
If you tend to suffer from pains in your neck, shoulders, or back, it’s very important that you be careful when you are sitting, walking, or sleeping. Correct posture is essential to maintaining the health of your spinal column.
Work on your posture by being aware of how you are sitting. Make sure that your spinal column is in balance and aligned straight. Don’t curve your back, or poke out your chin and make sure that your shoulders aren’t rolling forward, because this will simply generate a lot of tension in that area.
The best posture is the neutral spine posture which is achieved by pressing your abdomen inward, towards your back, and allowing your shoulders to lightly fall downward, in a natural movement without force. You could try to balance a book on your head (don’t use one that is too heavy). Walk around the room and pay attention to how your body feels. Maintain this position when you are walking or lying down.
If the root of your neck pain is emotional problems that cause tension in your neck, try to take things more calmly. Have a go at activities like yoga and meditation to help clear and calm your mind.
Treating neck pain
Always get the cause of your neck pain checked out by a doctor or a physiotherapist. Before you resort to strong pain killers you may want to try the following, more natural, remedies:
- Apply heat or ice to the area. Start with the ice (ice packs or frozen peas) for the three days after the pain starts and then apply heat (hot showers or heating pads). Do not sleep with a heating pad – it could burn you.
- Avoid strenuous physical activity – it can cause inflammation.
- Move the neck slowly, to each side, up and down, in small circles, touching the ear to the shoulder. These movements will help to stimulate the blood supply to the area.
- Try an aromatherapy massage.
- Sleep on a firm mattress and use a pillow made especially for neck problems.