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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton

What is causing your neck pain?

Here’s why it may be happening and how you can find relief.

From working a sedentary desk job to looking down at your phone all the time to feeling the impact of aging, neck pain is surprisingly common. But that doesn’t mean you have to live with it.

6 common causes of neck pain

Studies show that as much as 86>8% of people experience neck pain at some point in their lives which means that if you are feeling sore, you’re certainly not alone.

1.     Weak upper back muscles

As we get older, our back muscles start to weaken, which can lead to a kind of forward bending. Every time we bend our head forward we are taking it out of balance. Your head, which weighs about 10-12 lbs, is typically balanced on top of your spine. But with every few degrees that you lean forward, it’s like your head becomes heavier and heavier, requiring your upper back and neck muscles to do more work than they’re supposed to do. This can lead to strain, pain, and minor imbalances as well as cause other symptoms like headaches.

2.     Arthritis of the neck

There are disks between each vertebra (bones) in the neck, which act as cushions and take some of the weight off of the joints. But as we age we lose some of the water in the jelly of the disks which makes them thinner. Over time, as weight is put on the joints, they react by developing arthritis.

3.     Disk issues

The little bones that make up your spine are called vertebra and between them are little cushions called disks. They serve as a buffer between your bones but they can degenerate over time and although this is a normal part of aging it can be painful. When a disk tears or leaks, it’s called a herniated disk also known as a “slipped” disk. Often after the age of 55, it is common to have cervical spondylosis which is a combination of arthritis, disk degeneration, and spinal stenosis- not enough space for the nerves- and causes pain to radiate to the arms.

4.     Tech neck

If you work on a laptop, you are primed for neck issues. Because these computers are small, people end up leaning forward more to look at their screens. This takes the head out of balance and can lead to neck and upper back strain. This can also occur while looking down at your smartphone because dropping your head forward so often can change the curvature of your neck, straining muscles and causing wear and tear.


5. Job-related mechanical pain

The term mechanical pain refers to any back or neck pain that is due to a structural imbalance, including bad posture and tech neck. It usually involves a joint that’s not sitting quite right on another one. For example, if you fix telephone wires for a living, you spend much of the day with your head tilted upward.  If your head is frequently held in positions that aren’t normal for the body, that puts a lot of strain on the muscles.

6.     Stress, mental health, and chronic conditions

If you have ever heard someone say “I carry all my stress in my shoulders”, there is some truth to it.  People who have anxiety disorders or OCD tend to hold their shoulders up a lot which can cause chronic neck pain. The muscles can get very tight and this is especially common in people who already have chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia.

How to alleviate neck pain

Neck pain may be common but you don’t have to live with it. As we get older we start losing strength in our mid-back muscles and start to develop a forward head posture which strains the muscles in the upper back and neck. Strengthening those muscles and improving posture will reduce the pain.

There are simple but effective moves that can strengthen your neck and upper back allowing you to better support your head.

Scapular squeezes: Squeeze your shoulder blades together for a count of 5 and then release. Repeat.

Wall pushups: Standing push up in a doorway moving your shoulders past your hands.

Superman stretch: Laying on your stomach and lifting arms and legs at the same time and holding for a few seconds.

Another tip to help alleviate pain is to work on your posture. In addition to the stretches mentioned you may want to see a physiotherapist for a more comprehensive routine or even pain relief.

I suggest holding your phone up higher reducing the amount of forward bending and positioning your desktop computer at eye level with your arms and shoulders at 90 degrees. You may even want to try some yoga!

If you are experiencing pain in your arms or frequent headaches you will need to see a doctor or physiotherapist who will be able to assess the root cause of your pain and treat it. Don’t suffer, there is help!

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