We all have slept on a couch or on a bed that wasn’t ours and awoke to a stiff neck for no reason. For most of us, we stretch, move around a bit, and in an hour or two life is good. Now imagine neck pain being your normal every day.
Imagine waking up in pain, having trouble driving to work, have pain at work that has now become a headache. You are 8 hours in the day and miserable. You must go home and take care of your family while also in pain. Completely exhausted it is time to go to sleep with, you guessed it pain. As expected, this can cause difficulty at work, home, and with personal relationships. The good thing is that something can be done, and there is hope.
Neck pain is becoming more common in the United States with as many as 23% of Americans suffering from neck pain. It has a higher prevalence in people who are asked to maintain a position for a long time, such as an office secretary or line worker in a factory. Sitting or standing in a single position prevents your body from variable movement that is needs. With that lack of movement many people develop stiffness in their mid back and neck. This makes normal activities such as driving, work, and playing with kids difficult and in some cases, unbearable. When the only thing that you seem to enjoy is a heating pad or laying in a dark quite room because of a severe headache, that is not living.
Let’s examine why this occurs. As stated earlier, it is hard for your body to keep in one position for a long time. Many office workers are sitting for 8 hours with a 30 min lunch as their only break from your computer screen. Our bodies crave movement and when it is not being provided it can result in stiffness in certain areas that make neck pain more likely.
The mid back is the area between your shoulder blades that tends to bend forward with prolonged sitting or standing. It is a very common area that gets stiff and will result in the upper neck having to hinge to see what is in front of you. Staying in this period for long periods of time can result in neck pain, headaches, and can even effect how well your shoulders move.
What can be done? If we have identified staying in one position as a cause for neck pain, then moving should help. Movement is medicine and exercise has been shown many times to help with neck pain. The recommendation for getting up and moving is every 30 min to 1 hour to give our body the movement it needs. Understanding that getting up every 30 min can be difficult, here are some exercises that can easily be done at your desk
- Seated chin tuck
Sit up nice and tall. Use the space between your thumb and index finger and place it on your chin. Use the other hand and put your thumb and middle finger on the base of your skull. Push your chin back and create a double chin, while pulling up on the back of your skull. You should feel a stretch in the back of your neck
- Seated rib grab.
Sitting up nice and tall. Place your hand on one knee and your other hand across your body on the ribs. Turn and rotate your mid back. Once you get to the end take 2-3 deep breaths in and out. Which each breath out you should feel your back turn farther and farther
Neck pain affects many people, but it does not have to. The chronic stiffness, decreased motion, pain, and headaches can resolve or become much less frequent, which can result in huge improvements in work, relationships, and daily life. If you or someone in your family has neck pain, let them know that they do not have to be in pain. Getting people back to health and happiness is what RPI is all about.