Most Filipinos nowadays are spending a lot of time staring down at our smart phones and looking down on computer monitors more than 8 hours a day. It’s no wonder that nearly 20 percent of us have experienced neck pain within the last three months.
The cause of ‘stiff neck’ is usually the result of muscles weakening over time from poor posture or misuse.
Looking down at your computer monitor, staring at your smartphones all day, driving for long periods of time or perhaps a bad posture while sleeping can cause the muscles around the neck joints to weaken and become overstretched. If you’re doing this on an everyday basis, these habits can contribute to the displacement of your neck joints.
The neck joint no longer moves smoothly, when your neck muscles become weak and when trying to turn your head. You often feel the pain when your neck joint catches on something, either pulling a muscle or hitting the nerve irregularly, or could be both. When you feel the pain your body goes to a protective spasm because your body doesn’t want you to get hurt more, so it will clench, making you feel like you’re immobilized and leaving you thinking what you did earlier that caused the neck injury.
Here are some tips that could help you ease the pain from a stiff neck
When working on a computer, remember to put your monitor at eye level, sit up straight and avoiding tilting and twisting your head down or to the side to help you avoid neck pain.
When you’re driving or looking at your smart phone, (never use a smartphone while driving, by the way, aside from being prone to accidents, it’s against traffic laws) be sure to take frequent breaks and avoid having your neck bent forward for long periods of time.
Here are some exercises that you can try at your desk or in the car to help you avoid a stiff neck:
- Bring your ear to your shoulder 10 times on each side
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times
- Roll your shoulders backwards and down 10 times
- Push your head backwards into your car head rest or hands and hold for 30 seconds
- Hold the painful part of the neck just below the ear, raise the nearest shoulder, then bring the shoulder down, altogether with the upward pulling motion of the part of the neck that you are holding.
How to avoid stiff neck when you sleep
Pay attention to your sleeping position. Sleep only on your side or on your back – never on your stomach.
Sleeping on you stomach twists your head one way or the other for hours at a time. You can sustain back injuries if you have the habit of sleeping on your stomach. This can significantly affect your lower back. Notice that your belly sinks in to the bed and you don’t have enough support with this sleeping position. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
Also try these other simple remedies:
- Apply heat or ice to the painful area. Use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours, then use heat after that. Heat may be applied with warm showers, hot compresses or a heating pad. Be sure not to fall asleep with a heating pad or ice bag in place to avoid skin injuries.
- Keep moving, but avoid jerking or painful activities. This helps calm your symptoms and reduce inflammation.
- Do slow range-of-motion exercises, up and down, side to side, and from ear to ear. This helps to gently stretch the neck muscles.
- Have a partner gently massage the sore or painful areas.
- Try sleeping on a firm mattress without a pillow or with a special neck pillow.
- Ask your health care provider about using a soft neck collar to relieve discomfort. Do not use the collar for a long time. Doing so can make your neck muscles weaker.
- I don’t normally advise this, but you can also take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
If the pain gets in the way of your daily activities, Dr. Bang says to call your doctor.