10 tips to prevent neck pain and headaches
Neck pain is a common problem with two-thirds of the population having neck pain at some point in their lives. A common cause is strain or tension due to our posture or overuse. Tight muscles in the neck, shoulders and upper back can also be a trigger for regular headaches.
Director of Back In Motion Balnarring in Victoria, Paul Rowson, shares his 10 tips for preventing neck pain and the flow on impacts, including regular headaches.
1. Don't sleep on your stomach. This means your head will not be straight for six to eight hours which is not good for your neck joints.
2. Never cradle your phone between your ear and shoulder. That will tighten the muscles between your shoulder blade and neck vertebrae placing strain on your neck.
3. Poor shoulder blade position. Resist the urge to reach forward with your mouse arm while on the computer. Your shoulder blades should be symmetrical. This is harder than it seems to get right, and usually is best done under the guidance of a physio. It is subtle, and requires daily practice.
4. Avoid military posture, that is do not pull the shoulder blades back hard. This will arch the middle back (thoracic spine) backwards and tightens all the muscles from the shoulder blade to the neck and back, increasing load on the neck.
5. Be careful stretching your neck! Poor form can further loosen already unstable joints leaving the discs between the vertebrae vulnerable to injury. There are occasions when it is OK to stretch, but you need to seek a solution and advice from a qualified physio.
6. Take care when reading and using electronic devices. Having your neck bent forwards (flexed) for prolonged periods places pressure on the joints and discs of the neck.
7. Walk regularly. It always gives you better posture than sitting. Think long neck!
8. Watch TV on a fit ball or a chair that allows you to sit upright, unsupported. Posture must be practised - even if for only 15 minutes a day.
9. Select a pillow and mattress that suits your shape and places your neck in an ideal posture.
10. In social situations, avoid looking to one side to speak to people. This will place vertebrae in a twisted position and quickly cause pain. Face people front on when possible.
Suffering from a sore neck? Book a free initial assessment at your local Back In Motion practice!
Paul Rowson, Director and physiotherapist - Back In Motion Balnarring