Is your neck causing you pain? Do you wince every time you have to turn your head? Neck pain accounts for nearly 20% of chiropractic office visits and is one of the leading complaints people have regarding pain.
If you haven’t had an injury or an accident, what could be causing your pain? Two of the most common answers may surprise you.
Lack of Movement
Particularly prevalent among individuals who spend a majority of time in front of a computer, tablet or mobile phone, (most of us!!) neck pain can be caused by a lack of movement. When you sit still at the computer or stare down at your phone, you aren’t moving your upper back and neck, this can cause your muscles to shorten and become stiff. As a result, your joints become stiff and have difficulty moving. The constant strain on the neck of looking down towards a computer or screen can elevate pain and add tension to your muscles. The constant strain on the neck of looking down towards a computer or screen can elevate pain and add tension to your muscles.
When you eventually move, it may cause pain, which leads you to stop moving. It may seem like the right idea, but a lack of movement may actually cause more pain. Instead, do gentle stretching to help loosen the affected areas.
Anxiety presents itself in your neck in several ways. In some situations, the neck muscles become strained and cause muscle spasms. For most people, anxiety creates a nagging ache in the muscles that can persist throughout the day and night. When stress or anxiety is present, muscle tension can increase and cause pain.
Your neck has two main groups of muscles: the anterior (front) and the posterior (back). Most of the muscles are located in the posterior part of the neck, but your neck relies on all the muscles to fully function correctly. The muscles in your neck work to move your head side to side or up and down. When you have anxiety, the tension it causes in your neck can limit the muscle’s ability to move in some or all of the normal directions.
Neck pain due to anxiety can be alleviated by relaxing the affected muscles. It can become complicated, however, when your body becomes accustomed to having tension. Your muscles tighten up as a reflex to prevent injury and hold the tension in. When you have anxiety, your body expects pain, so your muscles tighten up, even if there isn’t any reason to be anxious. It becomes a vicious circle of anxiety and pain.
Reducing Your Neck Pain
Using stretching exercises frequently can help to reduce both the stress and the pain caused by anxiety. You can do simple exercises at your desk, in the car, or anytime you feel your neck muscles starting to tighten as the result of stress. By regularly stretching your neck, you are encouraging the muscles to release the tension they may be holding.
Using a structured breathing technique, you can help to reduce the effects of anxiety on your body and eliminate tension on your neck. Through deep breathing, you can slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and clear your mind of troubling thoughts. While this is happening, your muscles will return to normal.
A massage can help your muscles return to a normal range of motion and rest. The massage works to help your muscles release tension and allows you to relax both physically and mentally.
A regular pattern of exercise can have a positive effect on your mental and physical health. It isn’t necessary to focus your exercise efforts on your neck muscles, although it can help to alleviate neck pain. Simply adding a few new exercises to your routine can improve neck strength over time. Optimal exercise includes 20 minutes of a workout 3 – 5 times a week can greatly improve your body’s ability to get rid of the tension from anxiety. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
Improving your diet can help you manage stress more effectively, which can help reduce tension in your neck. Avoiding foods with caffeine, such as chocolate, coffee or soda can help your health. Eating more vegetables will help your body with the nutrients it needs to repair itself and function well. This can help you feel better.
Understanding what causes your neck pain is the first step to healing. Do you need help understanding the source of your neck pain?
Contact our office to schedule an appointment to develop an evaluation and treatment plan.