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  • Writer's picturePhysical Therapy International Service

Cervical Health: Tackling Neck Pain




Authors: Alena Combes- Baldwin, Aiyannah Wilson, Nazjae Arthurton, Sarina Brown 


          The neck, anatomically referred to as the cervical spine (C-spine), is a fascinating portion of the spinal column. It serves vital functions and contains important connections between the upper extremity and the head through vessels and nerves. The cervical ligaments, muscles, and tendons all help to stabilize and move the cervical spine. Having head and neck alignment and postural health is crucial to living a pain-free life. The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebral segment bones titled (C1-C7). C1 is known as the atlas, which is described as the bone that helps us nod “yes”. C2 is known as the axis, which helps with neck rotation. The rest of the c-spine allows us to perform lateral flexion also known as side bending. The cervical spine is more mobile than the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae which allows us to interact with our environment and perform our daily activities.

         Ergonomics is a hot topic in the physical therapy world today where clinicians will focus on anatomical, physiological, and biomechanical factors in which an individual interacts within the workplace or when performing daily tasks. Working on these factors can help decrease painful symptoms, prevent musculoskeletal disorders in the future, and can even help to improve productivity, health, and overall mood. Various problems in the cervical spine can result in irritation and pain which can affect an individual’s quality of life. For example, someone who may work in an office could be at a higher risk for neck pain due to the nature of their job. Workers in the office may use incorrect posture when sitting at their desks or stay in a singular position for an extended time causing neck stiffness and soreness. 

Here are some things to keep in mind about your posture to avoid neck pain:

  • Avoid repetitive movements. 

  • Forearms and hands should be parallel and horizontal to the chair by using an armrest. 

  • Elbows should be beneath the shoulder.

  • Minimize creating an angle at the wrist.

  • The feet should be flat on the floor.

  • Reaching and twisting should be avoided as much as possible. 

Physical therapy interventions help alleviate neck pain. Individuals are often prescribed a regimen of stretching and strengthening exercises targeting the deep neck flexors and extensors. Simple stretches, like neck tilts and rotations, enhance cervical flexibility, while exercises such as chin tucks can work to build muscular endurance. Modalities, such as heat or cold packs, along with gentle massages, offer additional symptom relief but should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis due to complex physiologic effects. Additionally, emphasizing good posture by keeping shoulders relaxed, chin slightly tucked, and spine aligned is crucial in preventing further issues and disorders. This holistic approach combines exercises and posture awareness to effectively manage and mitigate neck pain for all populations and ages.

  To prevent neck pain and enhance overall well-being, it is essential to incorporate stress management and mindfulness practices into one's daily life. Persistent stress is a common factor contributing to muscle tension, which can worsen neck pain. Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing exercises and meditation, prove effective in lowering stress levels and inducing relaxation throughout the body, including the neck muscles. Embracing a lifestyle that prioritizes stress reduction, such as taking regular breaks, establishing healthy work-life boundaries, and participating in enjoyable activities, can significantly contribute to overall well-being. 

In contemporary life, social media has become an integral part of our daily routine, and as such, we tend to spend a considerable amount of time on these platforms. However, prolonged use of social media can lead to neck pain. To mitigate this issue, it is advisable to limit the frequency of text messaging or scrolling on social media. Furthermore, one can avail themselves of a pillow to prop up their devices instead of holding them on their lap, which can exacerbate the issue. Lastly, setting a timer as a reminder to take periodic breaks from phone usage can also help avoid neck pain. Integrating stress management and mindfulness into daily routines not only strengthens defenses against neck pain but also fosters a healthier and more satisfying lifestyle.

 

Neck pain is common and typically associated with poor posture, muscle strain, or injury to the cervical region. To prevent neck pain, some may need to make small changes within their daily routine and lifestyle. First being, practicing good posture when standing and sitting. Sleeping in a healthy position such as using a small pillow under the neck and lying on the back with thighs elevated on a pillow to flatten spinal muscles. It is essential to choose a sleeping position that is comfortable and promotes good spinal alignment. Sleep position is an often-overlooked factor that can significantly impact your overall health and well-being. Staying active and adjusting one’s workstation can significantly help with postural alignment and symptom relief. Overall, having self-awareness and making these lifestyle and postural adjustments could help alleviate and protect the neck from pain.

 

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