• How to Prevent Neck Pain

    Pain relieving massageLast week I asked the fans of my Facebook pages if they had any questions about neck pain, and I promised to choose one to blog about this week. They were all great suggestions and they all involved some version of “how do I avoid neck pain while_____.” I couldn’t choose just one, so I chose them all. This week I’ll give you some general tips for avoiding neck pain, then I’ll give some specific tips for the activities they asked about.

    Some general ways to prevent neck pain are:

    • Don’t overuse/misuse your muscles –  this includes things like exercising too long, too quickly, too intensely,  not warming up, moving beyond the normal range of motion, and doing weird contortions that are not within the normal range of motion.
    • Avoid repetitive use – this includes not only repetitive movements but also holding your neck (or other body part) in the same position for an extended period of time
    • Correct poor posture/ergonomics – this includes pushing your head forward when looking at things – especially TV and computers, slouching so that you have to look up at everything, siting ramrod straight (holding tension in your neck and back muscles to hold that posture causes continued tension and pain even after you “relax”), and having a workspace where you have to twist and turn to reach commonly used things like a keyboard, mouse, or telephone.
    • Reduce stress – ways to do this include meditation (even 5 minutes 1-3 times a day can help), pausing to take a deep breath when things start to get a bit crazy, taking a 15 minute break from whatever is stressing you out, and saying NO to requests that you don’t have time, energy, or enthusiasm for.
    And now some specifics for those brave souls who answered my call (but I know you all fall into at least one of these categories so keep reading!):
    Crafters/hobbyists: Put your craft/hobby down and look up occasionally 🙂 Look all the way up to the ceiling, bring it back to neutral and turn your head slowly to the right and left, then tilt your head slowly to both the right and the left. Do this every 20 minutes or so to prevent that crick from starting to get a hold on your neck. Now open your arms and fingers as wide as they will go to open up the chest area. Remember, several of your neck muscles attach somewhere on or near your chest, so when it’s tight it will put pressure on the neck.

    Computer users: First and foremost, make sure that your computer monitor  is at a height where you can look straight at it; you shouldn’t be looking slightly up, down, or to either side when looking at your monitor. Second, pull your chair up to your working surface so you’ll be less apt to jut your head forward toward the screen. Third, make sure that your chair is high enough so that your elbows are at the level of your desktop, sit on a pillow if you need to.

    Drivers: This should be a no-brainer but I see it on the road too often to not mention it: don’t use the rear-view mirror for primping (not only because you don’t have your full attention on the road, but also because you have to turn or crane your neck to see yourself in it, even when you adjust it). Also avoid slouching in your seat, it makes you tip your head up to look through the windshield. Other things to avoid include driving long distances with your hand on the gearshift or passenger seat, holding onto the bottom of the steering wheel for long stretches, and driving non-stop for longer than 2 hours.

    Nursing moms: *Notice: I’m not an expert on nursing, and have never been a mom, nursing or otherwise. That said, I consulted a few friends who did nurse and took it from there. It seems as though everyone’s experience is different, however, and at least partially based on personality, both theirs and the baby’s.* So here goes: First, you need to give your muscles a break. Look up once in a while – every 20-30 minutes. Look all the way up to the ceiling, bring it back to neutral and turn your head slowly to the right and left, then tilt your head slowly to both the right and the left. This won’t take long and you’ll be able to go back to gazing at your darling baby. Also, keep your arms and shoulders relaxed. Using your muscles to hold the baby will cause continued tension after you’re done breastfeeding. Many of the cushions designed to help support the baby during breastfeeding only support the baby’s weight, they don’t support your arms as you hold onto the baby while s/he is feeding. This can cause you to hold tension in your shoulders as your baby feeds; using pillows or other cushions to support your arms/elbows will help you be able to relax those shoulder muscles. Still, you’ll want to check in with your shoulders every so often to see if they’ve begun migrating up toward your ears. If they have, take a deep breath and slowly lower them back down where they belong. Second, stress will cause neck pain, so if your baby is cluster feeding, is colicky, or it’s a middle of the night feeding, try putting some soothing music on the stereo and breathing deeply to keep your (and by extension, your baby’s) stress response to a minimum. When you’re done nursing, don’t forget to open your arms and fingers as wide as they will go to open up the chest area. Remember, several of your neck muscles attach somewhere on or near your chest, so when it’s tight it will put pressure on the neck.

    If you try any of my suggestions, I’d love to hear how they worked for you. If you have any suggestions to add, I’d love to hear them too! Please leave a comment below and don’t forget to share this with anyone you know who could use it!

One Response so far.

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