Neck pain seems to be everywhere. If you look around your office or talk to your co-workers, you likely see someone rubbing their neck, adjusting their posture or getting an ergonomics consult to try to get more comfortable. This seems to have become more prevalent as more people have been working from home using dining tables or even their bed as their office. You probably find yourself rubbing your neck and shoulders thinking “this is just tension or a headache” or, “I’m just stressed about life and there isn’t much I can do about it.” Did you know the following controllable factors can influence neck pain?
Sleep position. Waking up with a “crick” in your neck? Starting your work day with neck pain is never ideal. Poor support for your head and shoulders while sleeping can result in neck pain. Consider finding a pillow that gives support to your neck. Unless you have other medical issues that prevent you from laying flat, having too many pillows under your head isn’t always a good idea either. If you are unsure of which pillow is best for you, come in for a PT consultation. We can help you to find the right neck support and best overall sleep position for your entire back!
Monitor and keyboard position. You probably knew that this affected your neck and headaches but frequently adjusting it does not have to be complicated. Grab a stack of books to lift up your monitor so it is just above eye level. Keep your keyboard closer to your body and make sure it sits at a height where you aren’t shrugging your shoulders. Using a laptop? Consider getting a wireless keyboard so you can create a separate monitor and keyboard set up. If you’re still unsure if you are creating the best position for your body, a Physical Therapist can help you to create the right set up to reduce stress on your neck.
Breathing patterns. Did you know most people are holding their breath for significant portions of the day? Being more aware of taking steady breaths from your belly regularly throughout the day can decrease stress on the secondary breathing muscles in the neck and upper back, decreasing strain.
Upper body strength. Much of the tension in shoulders and neck muscles (the upper trap muscles) is the result of a lack of activation of the muscles in the middle back and shoulders. A few exercises to even out this imbalance can go a long way in decreasing the stress on those muscles. Many people have trouble finding and activating their middle back muscles. If you’re struggling to figure out how to correctly activate those muscles, a Physical Therapist can help.
Jaw habits. Clenching your teeth, biting pen caps, constant gum chewing or grinding of teeth at night can change the muscle patterns of your neck and head muscles resulting in tension and headaches. Try resting your tongue on the roof of your mouth. This helps to maintain relaxation of your jaw muscles. If you notice any clicking/popping at your jaw with chewing, yawning etc, it may be best to consult with a Physical Therapist who can evaluate your jaw for any underlying issues.
Some people can address these issues just by paying more attention to them. However, if this isn’t working for you, don’t despair. A few sessions with a qualified physical therapist can help you break through those old habits and get your on the right path