I’m not going to tell you how to get rid of that pesky neighborhood dog that always barks just as you’re ready to drift off to dreamland or how to find a way to help your 4-year-old daughter stop asking “why” about everything. We’re talking about a literal pain in the neck, here. Like many posture-related problems, the modern M.O. of sitting at a desk and working on a computer all day is often the culprit. An online ergonomic evaluation can help you determine the specific causes of your pain, but you may want to see if the following evaluations help, first.
The all-too-typical posture we assume while sitting at a computer has the head and neck positioned further forward than the rest of the spinal column. When a person regularly assumes this kind of unnatural position, the deep muscles of the neck are weakened. The specific muscle that seems most affected is the longus colli. Chronic neck pain is only one result; cervical disc herniation and shooting pain down the arms can also result.
Fortunately, most people can easily strengthen those weak neck muscles caused by a forward-positioned head. For those who have chronically used the “forward head” position over an extended period of time, the neck vertebrae may be too stiff and inflexible to properly exercise. If you think this scenario may apply to you, you’ll want to check with your physician or physical therapist before trying the following Head Holds exercise.
- Lie flat on your back, on a table or bed, with your head barely off the surface.
- Barely lift your head off the table, tucking your chin (to make a double chin).
- Hold as long as possible until you are fatigued, with a target time of about 30 seconds.
- Repeat three times daily.
You can view a video of this exercise below.
When you exercise the longus colli, it will tend to regain strength within only 2 to 3 weeks. To start out, you will probably be able to hold the position for only a few seconds, but after repeating it a few times , you may experience immediate results, enabling you to hold the position for twenty to thirty seconds.
Now that you know what to do for a pain in the neck, let me mention something not to do: Do not crack your neck. Many people seem to safely jerk their necks, causing a popping sound, to relieve discomfort. However, this activity can be quite dangerous, since your vertebral artery runs in a small canal along the side of the neck’s vertebrae. When you abruptly rotate the neck, particularly when it’s extended, the stress could jar the vertebral artery loose, causing a rupture. Now, that would be a real pain in the neck!
PhysioDC of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Baumstark and his professional team of physical therapists operate a boutique physical therapy office in downtown Washington, D.C. From athletes to government officials, and from ballerinas to corporate executives, PhysioDC helps people recover, strengthen and return to healthy living. Visit their website at www.PhysioDC.com or call them at 202-223-8500.
Image credits: Top by Francesco Ridolfi/Fotolia; Bottom by Kurhan/Fotolia.