Tips to reduce neck pain, headaches and stiffness
Pain in the neck?
We would probably say 40-60% of a physio's typical day involves attending to postural spinal pain, usually from prolonged positions, mostly driving, sitting at a desk or utilising an iphone, ipad or similar.
Do you ever experience headaches in the back of your head or behind your eyes? What about neck or shoulder pain, or a radiating pain/numbness, which may be accompanied by a tingling or burning sensation in your arms? Do you ever wake up in the morning with a stiff neck? Have you noticed that these symptoms have gotten worse over time? Do you realize it most when you’re driving, using your computer, sitting in a reclined position, or using your phone?
Things that you can do to help reduce neck pain
What can I do?
What can I do?
- Take regular breaks - You probably have heard this before but setting up an alarm once an hour to remind you to take a 2-5 minutes break away from the screen can provide vital rest to your muscles, joints and eyes
- Check your posture - Do you slouch when browsing the internet on your Phone or Pad? Does your head fall forward while texting on your iPhone? As soon as you catch yourself slouching, sit up straight pull your chin in and adjust your posture by straightening your back and shoulders and keep your device at eye level.
- Relax your shoulders arms and your wrists - While using a smart phone or pad, one arm supports the device while the other navigates the screen. The supporting limb can be affected by fatigue from static work (isometric contraction). In other words, the muscles in that arm are working hard to stay still and after prolonged use you may get a “burning” sensation. The navigating limb will start developing strain particularly in the forearm: in order to move your index finger to scroll through pages the muscles of the forearm act as a remote control and they will experience strain and fatigue from constant repetitive movement. To prevent fatigue loosen up your wrists by performing some wrist rotations clockwise and anticlockwise and shake the wrists loose to facilitate blood circulation.
- Stretch your neck - This step is related to posture: if you bend your neck forwards and lose spinal alignment you are at risk of developing disc and nerve injuries. Any type of compression on the nerves stemming from the neck will result in shoulder and arm pain. To alleviate pain stretch your neck to one side first slowly and gently and then to the other side. Set up an alarm to do the stretches regularly throughout the day (once an hour would be ideal).
- Use voice recognition or Ask Siri - The jury is still out on Siri and other speech recognition however, to check and reply to emails and text messages, you can dictate messages to your phone and avoid some typing.
- Ice application - Strained, aching muscles can become inflamed and one of the best ways to reduce inflammation, together with rest, is application of an ice pack (or bag of frozen peas). Apply one minute on, one minute off, for between five and ten minutes. The coldness will ease the inflammation while the reaction to the ice application will bring fresh oxygenated blood to the muscle fibres.
- Self-massage - Considering that the forearms are taking most of the impact from typing and browsing, you can massage the forearms from the wrist to the elbow to ease the discomfort. You can either choose to perform static points of pressure with your thumb or small circles with your thumb along the forearm.
What do I do next?
If you are suffering from neck pain, headaches, pins and needles or tingling, first read our tips for neck pain page if symptoms continue please call our practice for some direction.
Treatment of neck pain
Your physiotherapy treatment will address:
· Dry needling / Acupuncture
· Pilates (Reformer, Clinical)
· Joint mobilization
· Joint manipulation
· Trigger point therapy
· Strapping and taping
· Electrotherapy (e.g. ultrasound, TENS)
· Postural education & retraining for sitting, driving, standing
· Soft tissue work.
· Correct postural aids such as chair supports and pillows
· Taping and or braces
· Corrective exercises to fix the underlying issues.
· Postural taping or bracing
· Anti-inflammatory advice
· Activity modification advice
· Exercises to improve flexibility, strength and posture