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Pain in the Neck

Beyond the Office
When it comes to preventing neck pain that can undermine your workouts, your activities and posture outside of the office matters, too. Be aware of your posture while driving, eating and watching TV, and take special care about the postures you adopt for sleeping.

If you sleep on your back or your side, make sure your pillow keeps your head aligned with your spine. Avoid sleeping on your stomach: It forces your neck to remain in a twisted position for many hours.

Exercises that target the neck area can prevent neck pain, too. The key is to strengthen muscles in the neck and upper back that are often responsible for postural problems. Many types of exercise will get the job done, including yoga, isometric exercises, lifting weights or resistance training with elastic bands.

Jerome Schofferman, MD, author of What to Do for a Pain in the Neck (Fireside Books, 2001), recommends a few simple exercises that can be done at home or in the gym (for those exercises, see the “Be Nice to Your Neck” Web Extra!). “Strong muscles are necessary for good posture,” he writes, “and good posture is necessary for underlying structures to heal.”

In the short term, you can ease neck pain by avoiding painful activity, gently massaging the affected area, and alternating hot and cold therapy. Anti-inflammatory over-the-counter medications may help relieve acute pain, but it’s best to avoid using them as a long-term solution. Rest helps, too, but avoid prolonged inactivity, because weak muscles can degenerate further and exacerbate the problem.

If neck pain persists more than two weeks and you’ve taken steps to alleviate your condition, visit your physician or chiropractor. If you have trouble carrying things, or if you experience numbness, tingling or shooting pain down your shoulder, arm or leg, contact a health professional immediately.

Being kind to your body while you’re at work means your body will be kind to you in your off-hours, including during your fitness pursuits. Good posture, deep breathing and practical self-care in the office, according to Linden, translate into better performance during other everyday activities, including athletic and active pursuits of all kinds.

“The good habits you develop at work will carry over into your sport or athletic endeavors,” he says. “You will find yourself using the same body awareness, balance, relaxation and movement efficiency there, too.”

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Megan, selected from Experience Life

Experience Life magazine is an award-winning health and fitness publication that aims to empower people to live their best, most authentic lives, and challenges the conventions of hype, gimmicks and superficiality in favor of a discerning, whole-person perspective. Visit experiencelife.com to learn more and to sign up for the Experience Life newsletter, or to subscribe to the print or digital version.

128 comments

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4:39PM PDT on Jun 10, 2010

In addition to stretching the neck, having it evaluated and worked on, you may also want to discuss a program of resistance exercises with whatever practitioner you work with.

These exercises involve pushing the head into the hand at different angles, building up how many repetitions you do over time. This will allow you to build strength in areas that may be weak, and not functioning properly. It's not unusual to have one side of the neck be consistently tighter & perhaps more painful than the other side. And very often after an injury it may be that one side is doing most of the work of holding the head upright. Eventually the imbalance of the right & left can cause the working side to essentially go on strike. When that happens it becomes nearly impossible to turn the head easily, much less lay your head down or pick it up without using the hands.

Structural Integration therapy is what worked for me when I had the experience of the muscles simply not want to work correctly any more! This is why I work so closely with clients on neck related injuries & pain. It is crucial that not only do they get the help they need - but also that they get involved in their health maintenance!

12:20PM PDT on Jun 10, 2010

I agree with stretching for your neck & shoulders.

However as a professional Massage Therapist with an old whiplash injury (over 25 years ago) sometimes stretching is just a part of the therapy needed. Having your neck evaluated by a chiropractor, or other medical professional may be necessary. Sometimes old scar tissue is formed, & arthritis sets in as well. In addition there may be restriction due to misalignment of the cervical region.

Then there is the factor that in whiplash injuries the problem may extend further down along the upper spinal area into the shoulder. Massage therapy can be of great help with neck pain. Treatment also may involve working the entire upper back along with the front of the chest, on down through the ribcage in order to free up restrictions form either injury or overuse, bad posture, etc.

12:26AM PDT on Jun 2, 2010

As a massage therapist, stretching regularly is the best way to treat and further prevent pain from occurring.

12:02PM PDT on May 18, 2010

Hi,

Because I work in a warehouse, I get horrible back and neck pains. The only thing that has worked for me is hydrotherapy - warm water and powerful jets soothe my back pain. It's quite effective. I also exercise regularly to further reduce my pain.

I wrote hot tub's and hydrotherapy's beneficial uses in my very first post on Care2. I'd love to know what you think.

12:14AM PDT on May 13, 2010

This is quite an informative post that I'm going to share with many of my colleagues and friends who work on the computer or laptop. Very helpful - thanks

3:20AM PDT on May 4, 2010

thanks a good read.

11:21AM PDT on May 2, 2010

So now I know why my neck hurts...

6:11AM PDT on Apr 26, 2010

great article...getting a massage works wonders as well:-)

10:17AM PDT on Apr 21, 2010

WOW who would of thought hey thanks for the article i really needed to read this i sure hope it helps me

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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