By Dr Ravi Kelkar, Consultant Orthopaedics, Columbia Asia Hospital Hebbal
With so many of us gazing into computers or staring at our smart phones most of the day, it’s no wonder that we are experiencing neck pain. Waking up with a stiff neck is not the way you want to start your day. It can get you into a bad mood making simple movements like turning your head painful.
A stiff neck typically is the result of muscles weakening over time due to poor posture. Most of the time it is the result of sleeping position, sitting posture and the type of pillow you use. Most of these can be corrected if you know how.
You may not give much thought to your body position while you sit, sleep or the kind of pillow you use. But your sitting, sleeping position and pillow can trigger a stiff, sore neck, and also lead to back pain and other types of pain.
The position in which one sits and sleeps has a direct impact on your spine health. Most of us will suffer at some point in our lives with neck or back pain and most of the time our sitting and sleeping position is the culprit. In short, the way to ensure a happy spine is to keep is to follow few remedies.
Stretching can keep pain away: Keep your monitor at eye level, sit straight and avoid tilting and twisting your head down or to the side while you’re working on the computer, this can help in avoiding neck pain. While driving or looking at your smart phone be sure to take frequent breaks.
Proper stretching is very essential for a relief from stiff neck. Here are some stretches you can try that may help you to avoid a stiff neck:
- Stretch your shoulders frequently
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times
- Push your head backwards and hold for 20 seconds
- Bring your ear to your shoulder 15 times on each side
- Slowly turn your head from side to side
Sleeping position: Everyone has their preferred sleeping position. But if your sleeping on your stomach, it might affect your neck. When you sleep on your stomach, your neck may get twisted to one side. This can strain your neck muscles and make them feel stiff.
Tummy sleeping can also put a strain on your back, especially if you sleep on a mattress without a lot of support. This can cause your belly to sink into the bed and can put stress and pressure on your spine.
Pillow: Your head and neck spend many hours in the pillow while sleeping, hence choosing the right one is key to a healthy, pain-free neck. Using a proper pillow can avoid creating tension in neck muscles and neck pain.
Sudden movement: Sudden movements like sitting up quickly or tossing and turning while you’re sleeping can strain your neck muscles. There are certain other causes that can also contribute to you waking up with neck pain. Some common causes of neck pain include:
- poor posture during the day
- working too long at a computer, or watching television for too long without changing positions
- osteoarthritis in one of the upper spinal joints
- nerve compression caused by a herniated disk or bone spur in your neck
Reduce stress: Stress can cause to tense the muscles in your neck. Reducing stress can help treat and prevent neck pain and stiffness. You can try to reduce stress by listening to music, meditation, taking a vacation or break, even if it’s just for a few hours away from the office or a stressful environment.
For minor cause of neck pain, try these simple remedies:
- Apply heat or ice to the painful area. Heat can be applied with warm showers, hot compresses or a heating pad. Be sure not to fall asleep with a heating pad or ice bag to avoid skin injuries.
- Keep moving, but avoid jerking or painful activities. This helps calm your symptoms and reduce inflammation.
- Do slow range-of-motion exercises, up and down, side to side, and from ear to ear. This helps to gently stretch the neck muscles.
- Gently massage the sore or painful areas.
- Try sleeping on a firm mattress without a pillow or with a special neck pillow
You can prevent a stiff neck with changes in lifestyle along with regular exercise to strengthen muscles and make them less likely to be strained or injured. If a stiff neck has not shown improvement, immediately get it checked by a doctor. Also, regardless of how long it has lasted, a stiff neck accompanied by any symptoms such as a fever, headache, nausea or unexplained sleepiness should be seen by a medical professional immediately. The doctor will be able to give you proper treatment and relieve you from the pain.