As a chiropractor, I am seeing more and more bouts of neck pain in people that is lasting longer and hitting harder. Chances are you might even be reading this article from a smart phone with your head down and chin nuzzled into your neck.
The average person spends up to 5 hours a day on their phone and even more time sitting and on a computer. Your head weights about 10 lbs and for every inch you tilt it forward, the weight your neck has to carry is doubled.
Our necks are designed to hold up a bowling ball up in space, constantly fighting against gravity. Our necks are strong and resilient structures that get put through a lot in the day-to-day lives of the modern human. However, our necks are extremely sensitive structures, housing some of the most important tissues in our body. Think about it - every single nerve that runs through your body eventually has to end up in your neck and get funnelled through a small opening in the base of your skull to connect to your brain.
Therefore, it is extremely important that we take care of our necks every single day to avoid the damaging effects of our digital world. The problem lies in how we are going about doing this.
Stop stretching your neck! This seems to fall under the conventional wisdom when you have neck pain but in reality it doesn’t help that much. More often than not, appealing over pressure (i.e. using your hands) is more damaging to the structures in your neck, especially over time. It’s almost like scratching a scab because it’s itchy but it will never heal this way.
So if I can’t stretch my neck when I have neck pain, what do I do? The answer lies in MOVEMENT. Gentle mobility, and lightly massaging the structures in your neck will be most beneficial. Now I know some of you reading this thrive on that deep pressure in your muscles but when it comes to your neck - less is more.
Here are some things to try out:
1. SEATED NECK EXTENSION WITH JAW OPEN
How to do it:
Start on your knees or in a seated position and relax your shoulder blades back and down. With your mouth closed start to tilt your head back and look up at the ceiling.
Pause here and open your jaw as wide as you can and try to tilt your head back even further.
Close your jaw and bring your head back to neutral.
2. Downward Dog
How to do it:
Begin on your hands and knees, tuck your toes and lift your hips reaching your tail bone to the ceiling.
Reach your heels back to the ground.
Drop your head so that your neck is long.
Breathe deep into the stretch and hold for 1 minute.
3. Chin Tuck
How to do it:
Start in a seated position or sitting back on your feet. Keeping your chin parallel to the floor, draw your head and chin back into your neck creating a double chin.
Imagine a string pulling your head up to elongate the back of your head to the ceiling.
Hold for 30 seconds with deep breathing, relax the chin and repeat.
As always, its great to have a professional check your neck and posture and give you specific tips to help you through managing your symptoms and preventing future flair ups. Our necks require a great deal of care given their complexity. Remember to be gentle with your neck and treat it with care as it's job to hold up the most important organ in your body (your brain!) is not an easy one.
If you'd like an assessment of your neck and spine click the Book Online button and I'd be happy to help and answer any questions you may have.
Dr. Alfredo is a health enthusiast who’s goal is to help people and families live healthier, happier lives. My philosophy on health is simple - our body’s have the amazing ability and potential to self-adapt, self-regulate and THRIVE in this world.