The neck is comprised of roughly 20 different muscles and six major ligaments. These all work together to not only support and move your head, but they are key players in the functionality of your back, chest, and shoulders as well.
If you have noticed an increase in neck pain, but can’t seem to pinpoint the source, below are a few suggestions on what may be causing it. If left unaffected or untreated, neck pain can become more debilitating, leading to a decreased quality of life and could possibly turn into chronic conditions. Continue reading to learn about what could be the source of your neck pain, and a few exercises that might help combat it!
Sources of Neck Pain
Bad Sleeping Habits
You may not realize it, but your sleeping habits could be the culprit of all that nagging neck pain you have. Sleeping in awkward positions, as well as gritting or grinding your teeth, can strain the muscles in your neck and lead to stiffness. Clenching your teeth while you sleep, known as bruxism, can lead to jaw and mouth pain but also neck pain, as you are unconsciously straining those jaw muscles connected to your neck.
If you often sleep on your stomach, then chances are you have woken up with neck pain. When sleeping on your stomach, your head is turned to one side for a prolonged period, leading to strains and possibly pressure on nerves. In addition to your stomach, sleeping on your side can lead to neck pain as your head and neck may not be properly supported. If your neck is not in correct alignment with your head, as well as the rest of your spine, then sleeping on your side could be adding extra pressure on your nerves, discs, or joints.
To minimize neck pain happening while you sleep, try using pillows to support your body and ensure proper positioning. If you tend to sleep on your side or back, try using a pillow that supports both your neck and head so that your head is not too low or high, and straining your neck muscles. For stomach sleepers, you may have to retrain your body to sleep in a more supported position. Place a few pillows around you to prevent rolling over onto your stomach.
Carrying Uneven Weight
Another factor that could be causing your neck pain is uneven weight distribution. Carrying purses, bags, or backpacks on one shoulder can cause muscular imbalances, as only one side of your body is getting accustomed to that extra weight. As a result, you might find your head or neck straining to one side, as well as your shoulders rolling in, adding onto that strain.
Aside from carrying bags, carrying a child could also be causing your neck pain. Parents who are repetitively looking down to feed babies or holding toddlers on their hips face an increased chance of neck, shoulder, and back pain. To combat aches and strains from carrying uneven weight, try a few stretches listed below to relieve tension.
Poor Form When Working Out
Working out and staying active is key to a healthy lifestyle. However, the way you are exercising may be doing a little more harm than good. Having proper form when working out is detrimental to preventing injury.
For example, if you are squatting or benching weight, you may find yourself improperly placing the bar on your neck or straining your neck upward off the bench. Always ensure that you are performing proper warm-up before exercising, as well as cooling down. Use the appropriate amount of weight and engage the proper muscle groups. Getting help from a certified personal trainer can help ensure your form is correct and help you avoid unwanted injuries.
Ways to Help Alleviate Neck Pain
Making lifestyle changes could help improve your condition vastly. Such as using pillows for support, wearing a night guard when sleeping, or improving your form when exercising. However, if those don’t seem to do the trick, try these 2 exercises below to help alleviate neck pain!
DISCLAIMER: Always consult with your doctor before any exercise program. If you experience any numbness, tingling, or reproduction of your symptoms, please contact your doctor.
1. Lacrosse Ball of Upper Traps
- For this exercise, you will need a lacrosse ball and an edge of a wall. You will be working through the upper trap muscle, the muscle located between your shoulder and your neck.
- Take the lacrosse ball and place it on that upper trap muscle, then lean down into the wall.
- Make sure you keep your back nice and flat and have a good split stance, so you have your balance.
- Apply a light amount of pressure to scan for areas that may be tender.
- When you find an area that is a little tender, you can hold on that area and apply a little more pressure through the lacrosse ball until that tenderness lessens.
- You can move left and right and up and down on that area trying to work it out.
- Once that tenderness lessens, then look for another location that might be tender by moving just slightly with the ball, shifting your weight, or you can take the ball and move it to a different position by coming off the wall slightly.
- Roll the lacrosse ball along the trap for 1-2 minutes, pausing on tender areas for 20 seconds, then repeat for the opposite side.
2. 3 Way Stretch for SCM, Scalenes, and Traps
- Grab the bottom of your chair so it helps tacks down that shoulder.
- Bring your shoulder blade back and down and make sure your head is in a neutral position.
- Bring your ear to the opposite shoulder, and remember you are feeling this stretch on the side of the neck.
- Then, rotate your nose down towards your armpit or towards the floor, and you will feel this more in the back side of the neck.
- Rotate your head up towards the ceiling, your nose is up towards that ceiling, and you are going to feel that more in the front portion of your neck.
- Hold each area stretch for 15 seconds, release and repeat for the other side. Complete 10 reps.
Put Pain in the Past with Airrosti!
Pinpointing the true source of your pain is the first step to eliminating it. If you have noticed a pattern with your neck pain and any your usual activities, and nothing relieves the pain, just know Airrosti can help. Schedule an appointment with an Airrosti Certified Provider, who will assess your condition and create a treatment plan that can help solve your neck pain right at the source.
Read our Medical Disclaimer here.