Ever get a pain in your neck?
There’s a good chance you’ve experienced the pain of a crick in the neck at some point in your life.
The pain can range from dull to excruciatingly sharp. No matter what kind of pain you’re experiencing, a crick in the neck can be debilitating.
But what exactly is it?
“The crick in your neck can be different, depending on what you’re feeling,” says Emily Haithcoat, a physical therapist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “If it’s a sharp pain, it usually means that the pain is coming from a joint in your neck. If your neck feels tight, it usually means that a muscle in your neck is cramped.”
There are a variety of reasons why our neck muscles or joints become pained. The biggest culprit of this pain is poor sleeping and sitting positions. Our spines follow a slightly S-shaped curve from the base of our heads all the way down to our tailbones. It’s best to maintain this neutral S-shaped curve, but it’s easy to fall out of this position while we’re sleeping or working long hours in front of a computer, Haithcoat says.
While it may seem impossible to control how one sleeps in the night, there are steps you can take to ensure your spine is supported throughout the night. There are also best practices for maintaining good posture at work.
Here, Haithcoat gives six tips to maintaining a crick-free life:
If you already have a crick in your neck and you can sense the pain is due to a tight muscle in your neck, stretch it. You won’t want to, but you’ll be glad you did. Gently grab the top of your head and tilt your head down at different angles to stretch the tightened muscle.
If you already have a crick in your neck and can sense the pain is due to joint pain, place your finger on your chin and gently push your chin backward past your shoulder. This motion helps open the joint in your neck.
If the pain doesn’t go away after several days, talk to your doctor about seeing a physical therapist.
When sitting, make sure your ears are over your shoulders, and your shoulders are over your hips. This simple visual illustrates the importance of keeping that natural S-shape of your spine.
Maintain a posture-friendly workspace by adjusting your chair, keyboard and mouse so that your elbow falls at a 90-degree angle and your eyes are in line with the middle or top of the computer screen. You can place a lumbar pillow on your chair, as well.
When sleeping, make sure your pillows are offering adequate support. Again, the pillows should provide just enough support so that your spine is keeping the natural S-shape throughout the night. Pile up pillows if they are too flat.
Does your back or neck hurt? Take our Back and Neck Pain Assessment and receive recommendations on what to do next based on your results.
About the Author
Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is the manager of public affairs and marketing at Illinois Masonic in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.