Neck pain is an extremely common condition that affects up to two-thirds of adults at some point in their lives. While neck pain can often resolve on its own with rest, anti-inflammatories, and heat/ice therapy, there are some activities that can exacerbate symptoms and delay healing. If you’re suffering from neck pain, here are 6 activities you may want to avoid until you recover:
Sleeping in Abnormal Positions
While getting adequate sleep is important for overall health, certain sleeping positions can put extra strain and awkward angles on the neck. Sleeping upright in a chair or on the couch may seem like a good way to take pressure off a sore neck at first, but these positions rarely allow for proper rest and recovery.
It’s best to sleep in your normal bed if possible. Use an extra pillow or two to support the natural curve of your neck. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach with your neck twisted to the side. Sleeping on your back or side with a pillow between your knees may be more comfortable options during neck pain episodes.
Cradling Your Phone to Your Ear
The poor posture habit of cradling a phone between your shoulder and ear for long periods can lead to neck issues over time. The unbalanced weight strains the muscles as they work hard to support your head. This elevated muscle tension can cause pain and spasms.
When you need to be on the phone for more than just a quick call, use headphones or switch to speakerphone mode to avoid overburdening your sore neck. Limit phone calls when possible or turn your body to face the side of the affected neck muscles. Taking frequent breaks can also help prevent cramping.
Exercise that Compresses the Neck
Certain types of exercise may not be well-tolerated when you’re experiencing neck pain. For example, exercises like overhead shoulder presses or chest flies can involve squeezing the shoulder blades together, which compresses the neck vertebrae. Weightlifting that involves barbells held behind the head is also problematic.
Switch to lower impact exercises like walking, swimming, or gentle yoga stretches while your neck recovers. Avoid any exercise, sport, or activity that causes pain or feelings of pinching. Listen to your body’s signals and take time off from high intensity workouts until your neck pain improves.
Reading in Bed
Reading in bed may seem like a harmless way to unwind before sleep. However, this common habit strains the neck muscles as you attempt to hold your head upright. The angle often causes people to round their shoulders forward in a slumped posture as well.
Save bedtime reading for when your neck is feeling better. Sit upright in a supportive chair under good lighting when you want to read instead. Position your reading material at eye level rather than angling your neck down. Take breaks every 20 minutes or so to get up and move around to prevent stiffness.
Being Stationary for Too Long
Lack of movement can make joint stiffness and muscular tightness worse if you have a neck injury. Being stationary for long periods can affect circulation and cause further aggravation as you get up and move around.
Try not to stay seated or stationary for more than 20-30 minutes at a time if possible. Take regular movement breaks throughout your day, even if it’s just standing up and walking around your room for a minute or two. Lightly stretch your neck, rolling your chin gently toward each shoulder to relieve tension.
Activities Requiring Neck Flexion
Activities that involve repetitive or sustained neck flexion can be challenging with neck pain. This includes things like having to look down at a screen, book, or work surface for long periods. Pushing, pulling, or carrying heavy objects in front of you requires awkward neck positions as well.
Modify any activities in your daily routine that require excessive neck flexion. Elevate screens and devices to eye level whenever possible. Use stands and holders to bring reading material up to you – don’t bend down to it. Avoid activities requiring leaning over or heavy lifting until your neck has had time to heal.
The neck is designed for mobility, but needs periods of rest to recover from repetitive strain and poor posture habits. Being mindful and avoiding these 6 activities can help speed the healing process when neck pain flares up. Focus on maintaining proper spinal alignment and give your neck muscles a break until your pain starts to diminish.