Sometimes, life can be a real pain in the neck.

From parenting to particular professions, texting to taking a morning jog, the neck, or cervical spine, can’t be ignored. Its job is to bear the full weight of the head – a good 12 pounds or so – while enabling it to move in many directions. That flexibility, while virtually supporting a bowling ball, literally has you sticking your neck out for injury on a daily basis.

Common causes of neck pain

  • whiplash injury careInjury or accidents. Even a minor car crash or fall that only seemed then to require a couple of over-the-counter pain relievers can come back to haunt you. The effects of gravity over time can result in chronic pain.
  • Painters, servers and those who spend their days hunched over a computer are at particular risk – but so are high-powered corporate executives – particularly women – who hold the day’s tensions in their neck (as men tend to carry their stress in the mid- to lower back). Mental stress has negative physical side effects, which is why chiropractic care encompasses physical and emotional well-being.
  • Daily activities. A runner’s posture, with the head jutting forward, or even leaning forward while driving puts the cervical spine into an unnatural position. Carrying too much body weight can also have the same negative effect.
  • Normal wear and tear, including disorders such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease, can progress to pain,
  • Being a parent or grandparent. Spending a year looking down at the newborn in awe, coupled with hauling infant carriers and favoring one hip, could have unintended consequences.

And thanks to smart phones and keypads, that “bowling ball” is already too often facing downward, which is wreaking havoc with your neck’s normal curvature. So here are some neck-strengthening exercises and techniques that help counteract the daily downward strain.

Of course, if you’re already experiencing neck pain, be sure to consult with your medical provider first.

Neck-strengthening exercises

  • Lying on your back with your shoulders on the bed, position your body so you can hang your head off the edge of the bed. Begin with 30 seconds and increase to two minutes.
  • Roll a towel and put it under your neck while lying down.
  • Be sure to sleep with a firm pillow as a flat pillow will stretch neck muscles on one side. And sleep on your side or back.
  • Here’s a neck-strengthening exercise you can do while sitting at your desk at work: Clasp your hands behind your head and then push the back of your head against your hands.
  • Posture Pod exercises from Straighten Up America. Although written and illustrated for children, they’re beneficial for adults, too, and I review them with my patients.
  • Your chiropractor might even send you to a website with preloaded exercises just for you.

However, if your neck strain has already progressed to pain, it’s time to seek help to find relief.

Neck-pain relief without painkillers or surgery

The first step is to take advantage of a free neck-pain relief consultation by one of our four chiropractic physicians at Health Star Clinic to pinpoint the source of the pain.

Initially, many people want to wrap their sore neck in a warm wrap – but heat can increase the inflammatory response, and depending upon the stage and type of injury, worsen the condition. With an acute injury, for an example, an ice pack – or a bag of frozen vegetables – should be used 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off for the first 24 hours. But I’m a big fan of ice in general, which I advise about 85 percent of the time. I’ve never had anyone tell me that ice made the pain worse.

The spine personifies the use-it-or-lose-it paradigm. So along with physical exams to determine posture, range of motion and overall condition, a series of x-rays are often ordered that can actually illustrate limited movement – and that’s important to see because it’s free movement of the spine that helps prevent degeneration.

After the exam, an individualized treatment plan is devised and will be probably begin with gentle manipulation or adjustment to enhance spinal mobility, re-establish range of motion and improve movement of adjacent muscles so as to provide neck-pain relief. While we begin by addressing that initial complaint, what sets us apart is that once we get past the pain – using a number of on-site holistic treatment options – we then create individual goals to further enhance our patients’ lives.

Of course, we won’t breathe down your neck – but we will treat the whole person.

Dr. Candice Warren Cobb
Director of Chiropractic Services
Health Star Clinic