Some neck and back pain can be prevented through good posture. What is good posture? Most think of good posture as the way you position your body when standing (no slouching) or even how you sit at your desk (back straight, shoulders back, eyes forward), but having good posture is also important while you sleep. According to Harvard Medical School, neck pain can be caused by sleeping with poor posture and from poor sleep in general.
Here are some tips to help improve your posture and prevent neck pain.
PRACTICE GOOD POSTURE
Try this normal head posture as a general guideline for good posture: Stand (or sit or sleep) with your ears positioned directly above your shoulders, with your chest open and shoulders back. In this neutral position, the head’s weight is naturally balanced on the cervical spine and minimizes stress on the neck.
SLEEP ON YOUR SIDE OR BACK
While sleeping on your back is optimal for good posture, according to a 2012 national survey, about 90% of us prefer to sleep either on our stomach or our side. If you are a stomach sleeper, you may want to choose a different position. Sleeping on your stomach results in your neck resting on one side while your back is arched, which is especially hard on the spine. A whopping 74% of us tend to sleep on our sidesIf you are a side sleeper, one way you can correct this position for better posture is to make sure your pillow is firm enough and thick enough that it effectively supports your head and neck in the neutral position.
MONITOR YOUR MONITOR LEVEL
Your computer screen should sit at eye level. Here’s how to determine the proper level to set your monitor for good posture and prevent neck strain: Ignore your computer screen and just sit at your desk comfortably with your eyes closed. Now open your eyes. Your screen should be in front of you and your eyes should be looking directly at the top of the third screen, not looking down and bending your neck forward. This is also true for texting on your phone. Keeping your neck in a downward, forward position for long periods of time is straining to your muscles, your ligaments, and your spine.
DO SOME STRETCHES
A good stretch you can do at your desk or while standing is the chin tuck. Start by looking straight ahead with your ears over the shoulders. Place a finger on the chin. Without moving the finger pull your head and chin straight back. There should now be some space between your chin and finger. The finger is just a point of reference to confirm you are moving back from your original position. You should feel a good stretch at the base of your head and the top of the neck. In fact, if you are used to looking down at your monitor, this stretch will feel amazing. Don’t strain yourself and hold for about five seconds. Repeat as many as ten times or to the degree you can tolerate. You can also ask your physical therapist to recommend other neck stretches to help with neck strain and poor posture.
FINALLY, DRINK WATER
When you are well-hydrated, your tissues are well-hydrated. Those spongy structures between your vertebrae called discs are made of mostly water. Water keeps them pliable and strong. Keeping a water bottle to sip on throughout the day is the easiest way to make sure you are continually hydrated. Alternatively, if you don’t want to lug around a water bottle, try setting an alarm every two hours to remind yourself to drink a glass of water. If that doesn’t work for you, create a routine of drinking a glass of water before you start your day, an extra glass at lunchtime, and then one final glass before you pack up for the day. The extra hydration your body receives from adding those two or three additional glasses of water to your daily intake will benefit your whole body, not just your strained muscles and tissues.
If you are suffering from neck and back pain or chronic pain in general, Renew Physical Therapy can help. Visit our About Us page to learn more about our practice, clinic, and staff. Call us at 503.928.4914 to schedule an appointment.