I’ve recently had a patient come in with severe neck pain and she couldn’t figure out what had been going on. She had noticed the tension mounting for weeks, before culminating in neck strain painful enough that she needed to seek treatment.
Although she holds a desk job, she’s always been aware of the importance of taking breaks, and always makes sure to get up each hour, get away from the computer screen, and stretch all her muscles. She lives a healthy lifestyle and always remains active, either through jogging or practicing yoga twice a week.
However, as we were talking, it came to my attention that she often spends 30 to 40 minutes each night on her phone, either checking her messages or playing a game to unwind. She didn’t realize something so small over many weeks could slowly amount to neck strain, the kind of severe neck strain that has left her in a great deal of pain.
But staring at your phone screen for too long is not the only part of your nightly routine with the possibility of adding to your neck pain.
Sleeping with two pillows also holds the possibility of straining your neck because of the angle at which your head is tilted for hours at a time. Think about going to a movie theater and sitting in one of the first rows, where you have to crane your neck to see the screen. Now imagine having your head tilted at that angle for roughly 8 hours each night. This is similar to the amount of pressure placed on your neck from using two pillows at once.
Instead, try sleeping with only one pillow. This may be a bit of an adjustment after having been sleeping with your head propped up for so long, but once you get used to it, you will feel such a relief from the loss of pressure placed on your neck.
Another neck-straining nightly routine that we’ve already touched on is checking emails, reading, or playing on your phone before bed. These activities tend to cause your head to be tilted at an odd angle.
Therefore, the role of supporting your head falls to you neck, rather than your shoulders. Your neck is often tensing its muscles to support your head and keep it upright, which is a good thing when used the way it was meant to be. However, when your neck must compensate for your head not being supported by your shoulders, this can quickly lead to an increase in neck strain. Try putting your phone away at least 30 minutes before bed.
On the other hand, a beneficial nighttime routine that is often overlooked is stretching. Throughout the day, all kind of stressors can get in the way of living our healthiest lives, and we don’t often make time for relaxing and stretching our muscles. Going twelve hours without stretching your tense muscles can lead to further neck pain.
Try stretching for a good five minutes before you go to sleep and after you wake up to keep your muscles loose. This will not only reduce the neck pain you may be suffering from, but it may even relieve much of the stress you’ve been experiencing, making for a happier, more relaxing day!
P.S. If you would like more tips on how to ease neck pain, you can download my free report that shows you ways to ease neck pain naturally. Go here to get your copy and take it with you: www.restoreptllc.com/neck-pain.
Oliver Patalinghug is the trusted health expert and founder of the Metro Detroit's Leading Specialist Private Practice Physical Therapy for people in their 40's, 50's and 60's who want to keep healthy and active.