My thoughts this month have turned to NECKS – perhaps it’s the neck-ache caused by too much screen use during the dark winter months (see December’s post for what to do about screen overload) or perhaps it’s just that problem necks are something that I see a fair bit of in my clinic. This isn’t a huge surprise. You can probably imagine that stacking a bowling ball on top of a slender, flexible pole and paying the pole scant attention for years is fairly likely to cause the pole problems.
The technical name for your neck is the Cervical Spine. You can see my doctored images of the bony and muscular anatomy of this above and below. (Odd medical fact: cervical is also the name used when we refer to the ‘cervix’, the female reproductive organ.)
Numerous but in my experience are most likely to be caused by:
Each of our underlying anatomies, genetics, lifestyles and pain thresholds are different and as a result some people will develop more symptoms of neck problems than others.
…seen on an x-ray or scan do not necessarily mean that you will have or develop problems. Research has shown that two people’s similar looking x-rays can produce radically different symptoms and in many cases, no symptoms at all.
Neck-related aches, pains, tingling and numbness (the most common sensations) can occur above in just about any part of the head and also below, into the shoulder, upper back, arms and hands.
What are you doing that could cause your neck symptoms? Consider what prolonged or potentially less-than-perfect postures and positions your neck is routinely adopting, as this is a fairly likely causative factor. How long are you sitting in front of a computer for before you move? Is your screen at the correct height? Are you craning your head forward for more than 10 minutes at a time to do something e.g. knitting, screen-use, painting?
Are you guilty of dodgy and/or prolonged positions? If so, it may benefit your neck to take regular breaks i.e. move more and more often. You could also inject a few of the movement suggestions below regularly into your day.
The diseases factor requires a professional approach – see your GP. The traumas factor may settle of their own accord but if you’re worried that it’s serious, it’s not settling with time or is getting worse then again see a professional. A doctor will offer a general approach and a Physiotherapist can help if you think your problems are of a muscular or nerve origin.
A Physiotherapy approach can help with stiffness, weakness, nerve issues and arthritic changes.
Always also consider LIFESTYLE factors, including:
The NHS ‘Live Well’ section provides a good overview of general health.
If your neck feels stiff you can do any or all of the following as a stretch – from top left and in a clockwise direction:
Think LENGTHEN NECK throughout and alternate gentle bouncing in and out of the movement with 30 second holds for a couple of minutes.
It’s usually beneficial to take your neck as far as you can and push into a little stiffness, providing it doesn’t cause pain at the time or afterwards.
The following more global moves may also help ease your neck symptoms. Again either hold each one as a stretch or move gently in and out of the movement. Also work up to the limit of, as discomfort allows, your full range of movement.
We only get one and it has to last us a (ever-extending) lifetime. Granted a few of our joints and bits can now be replaced with invasive surgery, metal, clever technology and considerable recovery time & side-effects but personally I think that it’s simpler to take care of what we have and use it to enjoy our time on Planet Earth.
Thanks for reading.