Well, I usually tell my patients what to do to keep their necks in top shape. Unfortunately, a few of them cling to their detrimental habits for the sake of being efficient at work, school or at home. In our western society job performance is more important to some people than their own health. The following are sure ways to be very effective at work while wrecking the health of the neck at a very rapid pace.
Do not wear your eyeglasses or contacts. If you want to make sure your head always arrives before the rest of your body anywhere you go, make sure you find any reason to jut your chin out. When you don’t wear your eyeglasses, your head will automatically move forward, putting undue stress on your neck structures as they try to
hold your head stable in a very unnatural position. This will not only assure you will get stronger prescription next time you go to the ophthalmologist or optometrist, but it will also guarantee that you are among the first of your generation to develop osteoarthritic changes in the neck.
Keep staring straight in front of you for long periods of time without rest. You do it all the time, even when you wear your eyeglasses or contacts and even if you don’t need eyeglasses, you tend to keep looking straight ahead into your computer screen, the TV, on the bus, you name it. Overtime, this habit shortens your joint ligaments and joint capsule and weakens the deep muscles of the neck opening the door to joint degeneration, muscle stiffness and, in the long run, neurological problems. Fun!
Never ever check your posture. Postural awareness is an essential step in having a good posture. If you don’t check your posture throughout the day, you will perpetuate faulty patterns by not correcting them as soon as they pop up. For example if you talk on the phone all day and you tip your head while doing it. If you are not aware of this, over time, your brain will interpret this position as correct. Some neck muscles will be overworked and …. Ta Da! Neck pain becomes a reality. The candy cane look will live on.
Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT stretch your neck muscles. Why do so? We all love the sense of tightness and pain on our upper shoulders and back of the neck. We can make it worse by not ever stretching our neck muscles since it is so much fun to have to turn your entire body when you want to turn your head, look up, or tilt your head to the side. I know, nobody has time to do so while watching TV or stopped on a traffic light. Life is so hectic sometimes.
Carry your purse, computer or briefcase always on one side while bringing your shoulder towards your ear. Not alternating the side on which you carry your belongings to school or work is one sure way to mess up your shoulders and your neck. Most people hike their shoulders when they carry briefcases or purses on one side. Two muscles the levator scapula and trapezius (traps) connect the shoulder and the neck. They are strong muscles compared to the deeper and smaller paraspinal muscles on the neck. When they pull on the vertebrae in the neck they can strain smaller paraspinal muscles that are trying hard to maintain the level the position of your head. These little muscles can be gracious pain generators. Long live masochism!
Don’t you ever take microbreaks at work. If you do, you give joints a break. They will thank you and send messages to the brain to NOT keep your muscles so tight around the vertebrae. Who could ever want that? Turning and tilting your head left and right, turning your head up to the ceiling, doing a couple of chin tucks would take too much time off your work routine. Right? Increasing blood flow to your neck musculature so that it is properly nourished and its metabolic waste removed so that they are more pliable and relaxed is the worst thing to do if we want our level of daily stress to reach a perfect 10.
Do not ever see a chiropractor. Why do so? Cracking your neck sounds so disgusting after all. Forget about the ability of chiropractic adjustments to reset muscle spindles and break painful muscle spasms and trigger points. Who cares that chiropractic adjustments improve neck alignment decreasing the stress on cervical vertebrae joints, allowing them to last a long time and reducing the chances of referred pain to the back of the neck and shoulders. Come On. Pain is so much fun!
Ok, I was trying to be funny. However, take away the sarcasm and the habits I just wrote about are terrible for you. Spinal misalignment, improper biomechanics, weak and tight neck muscles will lead to deterioration of your joint, incorrect bone growths and a future of pain in the neck, shoulder and arms that you really want to avoid. On my next post, I will tell you some exercises and other tips to stay away from trouble in the neck area.