The neck is one of the least appreciated parts of our bodies. In fact, you probably don’t think about it at all unless it starts to hurt. That’s when it becomes the focus of your attention and stress. But the truth is that the neck is one of our hardest-working and most important structures. Its job is to hold our heads up, and when it is injured or we make its job harder, we end up with significant pain.
How do we make the neck’s job harder? You need look no farther than the technology you are constantly peering at. We spend so much time looking down at computers, tablets or smart phones without giving a thought to the fact that our heads weigh the same as a bowling ball.
Think about that for a moment. If you held a bowling ball in your hand with your arm held in a straight line under it, you would have the full support of your core – not to mention how much easier it would be if your arm was resting on a table. Now imagine trying to support a bowling ball with your arm at a 90-degree angle. You would be trembling and exhausted in no time.
That is what you’re doing to our neck when you’re constantly bending it forward. It creates tremendous strain and tension on the muscles and can even lead to degeneration of the discs between the vertebrae in your cervical spine.
Unfortunately, technology is a fact of life that few of us can – or want to – escape. And the same dynamic existed before computers in the form of poor posture.
Though remaining conscientious about holding your shoulders back and head up straight can help, practicing some simple exercises and stretches every day can both avoid and address neck pain and improve function.
1. Neck Retraction
This exercise can be done while standing or sitting, and you can even do it in the car while stopped at a traffic light or when you’re a passenger. Putting your index finger on your chin, push your head straight back until you feel a strong stretch. Hold for a count of three and release. Repeat ten times. This strengthens the muscles that support your head.
2. Seated Cervical Rotation
This exercise can be done while standing or sitting. Putting your right fingers on the right side of your chin, push your head around so that your chin is pointing towards your left shoulder. Hold for a count of ten then release and repeat in the opposite direction. Repeat this set of two motions ten times.
3. Ear-to-Shoulder Stretch
This exercise can be done while standing or sitting, with the only difference being where you position the non-moving hand. If you are sitting, place your right hand under your right leg or holding on to the seat of your chair on the right side. If you are standing place the right hand on the small of your back. Place your left hand on the top of your head over your right ear, then gently pull your head down so that your left ear is bending towards your left shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, release, then switch sides. Repeat three times.
Never stretch to the point of pain. If doing these exercises leads to a tingling or sense of weakness in your hands or arms, stop the exercise and reach out to our office for additional guidance.