Your cervical spine, otherwise known as your neck, is the slenderest portion of your spine. Just seven small vertebral bones are responsible for holding your 9-pound-plus head upright and allowing it to move without inhibition or pain.
The combination of carrying a heavy load and being relatively small puts your neck at high risk for injury. The National Institutes of Health estimates that about 30% of women and men in the United States experience neck pain per year.
At CurePain in Torrance, pain specialist Dr. David Wu recommends paying attention to these three factors to prevent chronic or acute neck pain:
Sit up straight. Right now.
Why? Because if you’re like most women and men, you’re slouched over your laptop or smartphone while reading this page.
Since many jobs involve computers, you probably hunch over most of the day at work, too. Slouching, hunching, and thrusting your head forward strain your neck and shoulder muscles, and also put pressure on your vertebrae and the cushiony discs that separate them. Over time, you can develop what’s commonly referred to as “tech neck.”
Tech neck is marked by acute or chronic pain or stiffness in your neck or upper back. When you slouch over your tablet, laptop, or other device, you’re holding your head at about a 45-degree angle or more, which increases the relative weight of your head to about 60 pounds.
Give your neck a break by sitting up straight while you work or read, and raising your phone or tablet to eye level. You may also invest in an ergonomic work space that keeps your monitor at eye level, too.
Whiplash seems like a punchline to a joke, but it’s a common and serious consequence of even a minor fender bender. When you’re rear-ended or otherwise suffer an impact while in your car, your head and neck may be thrust forward and back or side to side.
Even if you don’t have symptoms right away, you might notice that your neck is stiff or painful a few days later. The neck hyperextension that you suffered in your accident can sprain and strain your ligaments and tendons.
If you’re in any kind of car accident, be sure to contact Dr. Wu for an evaluation. If you have whiplash, early treatment may help you avoid other possible consequences, including tinnitus (ear ringing) and referred pain or numbness to other areas of your body.
Chronic stress keeps your muscles in a state of tension, which can cause them to spasm and even freeze. When your muscles are tense, they can also pull your cervical spine out of alignment, increasing your risk for a slipped or ruptured vertebral disk or pinched nerve.
Take frequent breaks, learn calming techniques such as meditation and deep breathing, and gently stretch and strengthen your neck and shoulder muscles with exercise.
Neck pain that doesn’t resolve on its own may be a sign of spinal stenosis, cervical radiculopathy, arthritis, or another condition. If you have neck pain, Dr. Wu first conducts a comprehensive medical evaluation to determine the cause. He then devises an individualized treatment plan that alleviates your present pain and helps prevent further injury.
Recommended therapies may include:
To find out what’s causing your neck pain and find relief, contact us today by phone or use the online form.