Simple Ways to Ease Your Neck Pain
If you’re like most people, you carry your head too far forward.
That may not seem like a big deal, but over time that little shift in your posture can cause structural changes—and pesky pain in your neck (and your head…and your shoulders). Many of your daily habits can lead to pain—so much so that you may readily accept body aches as a fact of life. For many people, though, they don’t have to be—and relief starts with becoming more attuned to your body and its movement.
Your head should sit directly on top of your shoulders, not jut forward or hang down on your chest. Work to develop an awareness of how you carry yourself. This may seem obvious, but the more conscious you are of your head position throughout the day, the more likely you are to correct it.
With some time, proper positioning can become second nature. Help your effort:
Take breaks when driving long distances or sitting in the same position for a long time to “reset” your alignment and give your body a rest.
Lift heavy objects with good form—back in a straight line, knees bent—which can prevent your chin from sticking out. Weight training can make this easier.
Use a headset when you’re on the phone to avoid having to hold your head in an awkward position against your shoulder.
If you find that you lean forward and squint when reading the newspaper or your computer screen, wear your glasses or get your eyes checked.
Sleep on your back or side, not your stomach. Be sure to use a supportive pillow.
Read in bed sitting up instead of flat on your back with pillows under your head and your book on your chest. Keep your book at eye level so you don’t have to strain your neck to see the text. If you watch television in bed (which we don’t recommend), sit with your back flush to the wall or headboard.
Muscle tension can easily throw your body out of alignment—and contribute to neck pain all on its own—so also try to:
Get regular exercise to help manage stress that can manifest into aches and pains.
Shrug your shoulders up and down, and squeeze your shoulder blades together and release after long sitting stints.
Incorporate stretching and relaxation practices into your daily life. Here’s an exercise that does double-duty: Sit on a chair or stool and look forward. Relax completely. Pull your head slowly backward until it’s as far back as you can manage. Keep your chin tucked down and in, and your eyes forward. Don’t tilt your head back. Hold this position for a second or two. (This lengthens the back of your neck.) To improve your posture and prevent pain, do a set of 10 three times per day. If you’re already feeling neck pain, ramp up to a set of 10 or 15 every two to three hours.
Consider getting regular massages to help address imbalances that contribute to neck strain.