Neck strain is one of the leading causes of chronic pain experienced by adults. It can range from a mild, nagging pain to pain that is debilitating and limits the ability to perform daily activities. Recognizing the symptoms and causes, however, can lead to quick relief. Read on to find out more.
- 1 Neck Strain Symptoms
- 2 Neck Strain Causes
- 3 Neck Strain Treatments
- 4 Relief from Neck Strain is Possible
Neck Strain Symptoms
Neck strain is typically localized pain, relegated to the back of the neck and sometimes to the upper back or shoulder region. It can also radiate to the back of the head in addition to feeling pain in the back of the neck. Neck strain may also come with little to no pain at all and only presents itself when you move a certain way. In that case, neck strain would come in the form of an intense, sharp, knife-like pain.
Additional symptoms of neck strain include:
- Muscle spasms
Neck Strain Causes
Below you will find seven leading causes of neck strain, ranging from maintaining a forward head posture for too long to a serious injury such as a head-on collision:
Neck strain, more often than not, occurs due to poor posture. Good posture is when the ears are directly in line with the shoulders, the shoulders are drawn back slightly, causing the chest to open. When posturing this way, the head is in a neutral spot, which minimizes stress placed on the neck. The head is completely balanced on the spine.
Holding the head too far forward, such as when you are looking at a computer screen for prolonged periods of time or doing any type of work that forces you to take on a hunched position, can easily lead to neck strain.
When the head is held in that position, the cervical spine is forced to support more weight since the head is no longer adequately balanced. Muscles in the back and shoulders become overworked and the shoulders round forward, stretching the muscles along the upper back. All these things combined can lead to neck strain.
Text neck, also known as tech neck
Another leading cause of neck strain is text neck. Text neck, also called tech neck, is the blanket term given for neck strain caused by hunching over a phone, computer, or tablet screen for long periods of time.
Again, neck strain is caused when the shoulders round forward and the cervical spine is forced to take on more weight as the head maintains that forward position for extended periods of time.
Lifting something too heavy can put strain on the neck, as can lifting something over and over again. Any repetitive movement such as turning, bending, pulling, or reaching can cause the muscles of the neck to wear out or even tear, resulting in neck strain.
Any time the muscles of the body are put through a new movement or one that they’re not used to, strain can occur. Just as repetitive movement can cause neck strain, a new exercise routine, job, or the start of a sport’s training season can lead to strain in the muscles of the neck.
Sometimes, neck strain originates from something or somewhere else. An injury, such as a fall or a collision can lead to neck strain, even if the primary source of the impact was somewhere else in the body. The most common type of this form of neck strain is……
In the event of a trauma like a fall, a car accident, or a sports injury, neck strain can arise as the result of whiplash. Whiplash is when the head jerks back and forth rapidly and the muscles surrounding the head, neck, and upper back cannot react quickly enough to stabilize it.
Finally, stiff neck can lead to neck strain. Stiff neck could be caused by a pulled muscle in the side or the back of the neck, or it could result from any one of the following:
- holding the phone between your neck and ear for an extended period
- sleeping in an odd position
Stiff neck could prove more painful than neck strain in some cases, especially if it leads to headaches, pain that radiates into the arms, or you find you can’t turn your head at all, instead needing to turn the entire body to look side to side or behind you.
Neck Strain Treatments
In many cases, the best treatment for neck strain is time. Usually, if you can determine the cause of your neck strain and cease doing that movement or activity, the pain should subside on its own. You can also try:
Maintaining an ergonomic work station
Learning to sit and stand with correct posture will also work to remedy unwanted neck discomfort, and if you’re someone who does a lot of computer work or close-up work of any kind, investing in an ergonomic chair and desk could also help to alleviate your neck strain.
Some other tips to create an ergonomic workstation include:
- Computer monitors should be at eye level, keep the head straight
- Maintaining good posture is essential
- Keyboards and computer mice should be placed in a way that allows users to maintain neutral positions, not reaching or bending the body awkwardly
- Getting up and stretching and moving throughout the day will help reduce neck pain
Topical pain relievers
Additional options include over-the-counter pain-relieving topical products, such as those from CBDMEDIC™. Naturally-derived analgesics, such as camphor and menthol, temporarily reduce muscle aches and pains by distracting the brain from feeling pain by providing cooling and warming sensations directly at the source of discomfort.
These topical products are a great way to reduce unwanted pains without any harsh or unwanted side effects.
You can also try applying a heating pad or ice to the affected area for up to 20 minutes at a time, which could help reduce some of the symptoms.
Sleeping on a proper pillow
Ensuring that you’re getting enough sleep by using the right type of pillow for you, can help limit your chances of straining your neck. Pillows come in a variety of shapes and densities and finding the one suited for your individual needs is essential.
Another great, easy way to relieve neck strain is to move through the following neck exercises. Be aware, however, that these exercises should only be performed if you’ve consulted your primary care physician and you know your neck strain isn’t the result of a more serious injury.
When performing these exercises, begin slowly and don’t overdo it.
Keeping the shoulders relaxed, dip your right ear toward your right shoulder. Stay like this, or, for an extra stretch, bring your right hand above the left ear to gently guide the head closer to the shoulder. Don’t force the stretch!
- Hold for up to 30 seconds, breathing deeply as you do so.
- Repeat by dipping the left ear to the left shoulder, holding for up to 30 seconds on that side.
- Repeat up to 4 times on each side.
Sitting or standing up nice and tall with your chin parallel to the floor, slowly turn your head to look out over your right shoulder.
- Hold up to 30 seconds and return to center.
- Repeat by looking over the left shoulder and holding for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat up to 4 times on each side.
- Place a rolled towel beneath your neck for support. Make sure the back of your head is touching the floor.
- Gently move your chin toward your chest.
- Hold that position for about 5 seconds and release for about 10. Repeat up to 12 times.
Neutral Position Strengthening
- Bringing the fingertips to the back of the head with your elbows out wide, gently press the head back. You don’t want the neck to arch back, but rather, you want to press the head straight back into the fingertips and the fingertips back into the head.
- Hold for about 5 seconds and release. Repeat up to 12 times.
If you feel any discomfort or sharp pain while doing any of the abovementioned exercises, stop doing them immediately. Again, schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out any serious injury.
Relief from Neck Strain is Possible
When suffering from neck strain, it can be difficult to focus and even to complete daily tasks. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce the pain, including the stretches listed above. If your neck pain is due in part to working from home without your regular office set-up, read our article, “Working from Home? 6 Tips to Protect Your Mental and Physical Health.”
Don’t let neck strain get the best of you. Follow our tips and you’ll be feeling better in no time!