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Neck pain is extremely common affecting 50 – 70% of people at some point in their lives. Fortunately, following these simple tips for neck pain can help to speed up your recovery, or even prevent you getting neck pain altogether.
Many patients with neck pain have a very stiff or rounded mid-back. This is very important to address as mobility through the mid-back is key in allowing the neck and shoulders to move well. Try this simple test to see how well your mid-back is moving. A good exercise to help improve mid-back mobility and thereby reduce the strain on your neck and shoulders is described below.
- Kneel on the floor with hips back towards your heels and forearms on a chair (as shown).
- First, round your back up and breathe in. Then, as you breathe out, let it fall towards the floor in an arch shape.
- You should `feel’ this in your mid-back especially when you let your back fall to the floor.
- Make sure your arms are not too straight or pushing into the chair.
- Repeat 8-12 times.
One of the main reasons neck pain patients have a stiff middle back in the first place is from too much sitting, particularly in a slumped or rounded position. This rounded positon places a large stain on the joints and muscles of the neck. To prevent this, sit back into the chair and place a support or lumber roll just above your belt line. This will shift your pelvic position, restoring your natural low-back curve and automatically improving your mid-back and neck posture! But, even with a better postural position sitting for long periods will still stiffen your neck and slow your recovery. Get up every 20-30 minutes to walk, stretch or perform any of these micobreak exercises.
Walking is a great anecdote for those with neck pain. Walking with upright posture and swinging the arms from the shoulders will gently keep the neck moving. When walking the chest moves around the head vs moving the head on the shoulders which means walking is generally well tolerated even in acute neck complaints. Opt for walking whenever you have the opportunity – take the stairs instead of the lift, park a little further away or even leave the car at home altogether!
When relaxed, the normal breathing pattern is for the stomach and lower ribs to expand (belly breath). However, often in patients with neck pain this normal breathing pattern has been disturbed. Instead of the stomach and lower ribs expanding the neck and shoulders muscles compensate to lift the chest straight up (chest breathing). This puts a lot of stress on the joints and muscles of the neck and is a common factor in headaches and neck pain. For full recovery from neck injuries it is therefore very important to retrain this pattern. A good starting point for this is the rainbow breathing exercise
- Set up as shown with your forehead resting on the floor (if your head doesn’t reach the floor comfortably place a small cushion underneath).
- Lengthen the spine. Imagine someone is pulling your head forwards whilst holding your hips in place. Let the shoulders widen.
- Relax your stomach and concentrate on breathing down into the sides of the lower ribs and abdomen.
- You should feel the lower ribs widen and the abdomen expand gently into the thighs. You shouldn’t feel your neck and shoulders move or tighten.
- Hold this position for 1- 2 minutes.
- Try and reproduce this pattern of breathing during the other exercises and daily activites.
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- Liebenson. C., Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies
‘Top Tips for Neck Pain’ was written by Steffen Toates. Steffen is a chiropractor at Dynamic Health Chiropractic in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more infomation about Steffen click here.