Handy techniques to prevent neck pain
Wed,Jan 20, 2016 at 04:10PM by Douglas Wilson
Have you ever woken up with neck pain that seems to get stiffer as the day progresses? As the seasons change many of us can wake up feeling stiff and sore in the neck and upper back rather than well rested. Why is this? And what can we do?
Due to Brisbane’s fantastic climate many leave their windows open and ajar at this time of year, even during the night. As we have seen in recent weeks however, the temperature can change dramatically. Waking up with stiffness and pain in the neck is a common presentation to physiotherapists at this time of year.
As your neck is exposed to the cooler night air our natural instinct is to raise the shoulders towards the ears to decrease the area of exposed skin, preserving body temperature. This can cause an increase in tone or tightness in muscles connecting your neck to your torso and shoulder, such as the scalene group and levator scapulae muscles.
Sleeping on your belly may also predispose you to neck pain, due to the position it causes your neck to be in, for hours on end, especially if you are a deep sleeper.
So what can you do to prevent neck pain?
Taking care as the seasons change; closing windows and blinds on cooler nights can help. Appropriate pillows for your sleeping position can often play a large role in prevention and management of morning neck pain.
When you are asleep, your cervical (neck) spine should be in a supported neutral or natural position. This means that the space created by the lordosis or curve in your spine from your head and back curving into your neck needs to be taken up with pillow support. This is particularly important if you are a side sleeper. When sleeping on your side there is a surprisingly large space to be considered.
Find the point of your shoulder and imagine a line going straight up to the ceiling stopping when it gets in line to the top of your head. This is the amount of space needed to be filled in order for your neck to be well supported when sleeping on your side, and to prevent your shoulder (on the side you sleep on) being pushed up towards your ear.
Contoured pillows are designed for back and side sleepers to support the neck. However as there are many different personal preferences when it comes to mattress/pillow comfort try this simple trick to find out if a contoured pillow could be right for you.
When lying on your side get a soft or feather pillow and bunch it in over your shoulder taking up the space from the side of your neck to the tip of your shoulder. Then place a thinner/firmer pillow in towards the top of your ear to support the upper part of your head.
Another trick to trial is to roll up a towel and place it inside your pillow case along the length closest to your shoulder. This should also take up the space and support your neck more appropriately.
If you already have neck pain, a visit to your physiotherapist will aid in your pain settling as quickly as possible, and improving your neck function to be able to do important daily tasks (i.e. looking over your shoulder in the car!). At Body Organics our experienced physiotherapists can assess the true cause of your neck pain, reduce your pain and provide you with the appropriate advice and exercises to get rid of that “pain in the neck”!
Nadia Labort practises physiotherapy with Body Organics in Brisbane. She completed her Bachelor of Science (Exercise Science) at the University of Wollongong, which provided a solid foundation for her subsequent Masters of Physiotherapy at the University of Sydney.