Historically, a large quantity of individuals suffered back pain. In today's age, with individuals spending a lot of time inactively, whether they are working on their computers, prolonged posturing, or simply talking on your cell phone can lead to stiffness in the neck. Neck pain typically is not a sharp pain, rather a dull muscle ache which will be featured on one side more than the other. As the day goes on, without proper stretching, the pain typically increases.
Your neck is 7 individual vertebrae stacked on top of one another, supported 360 degrees around by muscles. This allows your neck the freedom of movement up and down, side to side, turning, etc. The issue with this is imbalance. For example, if you are looking down at a laptop, the muscles in your neck are working to keep your head in this position. This creates strain in the neck, leading to a constant pull and irritation since these muscles are constantly working while the others are not.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Not technically a disease, degenerative disc disease is a term used to explain the natural changes in aging spinal discs. As the space between your vertebrae gets smaller, there is less padding between them, causing the spine to become less stable. Degenerative disc disease can accelerate if you are a smoker, lack of proper nutrition, and inactivity. While our bodies are constantly battling gravity, lack of movement can lead to severe stress on your neck as the same muscles are constantly working to keep your head upright.
How Physical Therapy Can Help
After a thorough evaluation with your physical therapist, your therapist will determine how much movement and activity with your neck as prolonged posture can lead to losing mobility in your neck as your muscles begin to tighten into the one position they are constantly working to support. In other terms, when your neck works to support another position, it becomes much more difficult than it should be. In addition to providing proper stretching and muscle building exercises, your therapist will evaluate your lifestyle and advise any changes or recommendations to your everyday behavior. Some specific exercises you can do to help with your neck pain include:
- The Chin Tuck: Picture yourself making double chins, but rather than looking down, picture your head resting on a shelf, and you are pulling your head straight back and making double chins. This exercise can be done while in the car, preferably at a stop light. Since you have your head rest, push your head gently right into the head rest. This exercise allows your neck muscles to start working while they are aligned in an upright position.
- Simple Range of Motion: Simply turn your head side to side and up and down 5 times each way is a great way of keeping your neck muscles working. DO NOT do head circles, as this creates the bones rubbing one surface against the other.
Remember, there are many important structures passing through your neck and it is important to work your neck muscles safely. If you have lost mobility in your neck, or if you have enough disk decrease in height or herniated disk to where it is affecting the nerves, and you are feeling numbness or weakness in your arms, you may need to see a doctor about the possibility of neck surgery.
Visit www.fyzical.com to find out more information about how physical therapy can help you. To listen to Dr. Liz Kuba on HealthIQ Radio, click link below.