Neck pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal issues that people experience. It can happen due to a car accident or come on gradually from daily wear and tear. Here are five things to do and not do if you think you’ve injured your neck.
1. Don’t Put off Seeking Care
Neck pain could be a sign of whiplash or another injury. Most conditions that cause neck pain can be easily treated when caught early, but putting off care makes it more likely that your pain will become chronic. You should always see a healthcare provider after a car accident, even if it was just a fender bender. Signs of whiplash can appear days to weeks after an accident; by then, it may be difficult or impossible to file a claim for your medical treatment. Symptoms of whiplash include headache, neck pain, and pain, numbness or tingling in your shoulders or down your arms.
It’s common for neck pain to grow more persistent over time. It might start as stiffness after you’ve been in front of the computer or looking at your phone, then progress to pain and stiffness that’s present even when you’re active. Poor posture is often to blame for neck pain. Upper back, shoulder pain, and tension headaches often accompany neck pain caused by hunching forward. “Tech neck” is a recently coined term for neck problems caused by looking at phones and computers.
Your neck is meant to have a slight backward curve. Bending the neck forward for long periods puts pressure on your spinal cord and brain stem and can cause the discs between your vertebrae to migrate backward. This makes bulging discs more likely and can cause a permanent change in your neck curvature. Hunching forward with your shoulders causes small tears in the muscles of your upper back that get filled in with stiff scar tissue.
If this all sounds serious, it’s because it is. Seeing a provider right away will help mitigate the damage to your body. They can provide treatments to correct neck curvature, heal muscle strain, and help you change things at home so you don’t reinjure yourself.
2. Follow Your Provider’s Instructions
When you seek care for your neck pain, you will most likely receive a mix of treatments. Our clinic provides chiropractic adjustment, physical therapy, and several types of injections. All of these may be necessary, depending on the extent of your injuries. It’s essential to follow through with your treatment plan. Patients who don’t complete their plan are likely to experience recurring symptoms and need more treatment down the road.
In addition to completing your in-office treatments, you must do your stretches and exercises at home as instructed. You can only be in your provider’s office a few days a week at most. What you do every day at home will significantly impact how well your treatment works. Set aside some time whenever it works best for you, that could be morning, evening, or on your lunch break, and do your exercises every day. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your provider if you have questions. They can provide guidance on hot/cold therapy, what activities to avoid and how to modify your exercises to accommodate your unique needs.
3. Change Your Habits
Remember being lectured on your posture as a kid? It turns out your parents and teachers were right when they said slouching is a bad habit. Slouching, hunching forward, or simply looking down at your phone with your neck bent are terrible postures for your back and neck. Over time they can cause significant pain and injury.
There’s no point in seeking treatment if you don’t change these bad habits—simple hacks like putting your computer screen at eye level while working can help. When staring at your phone, try holding it out in front of your face keeping your head in a neutral posture between your shoulders. Try to stand up every hour while you are sitting at work. Place a pillow behind your lower back for support if your office chair isn’t ergonomic. If you struggle to remember not to hunch forward, you could try one of the many posture devices on the market to remind you. These are usually worn on your upper back and will beep or vibrate to let you know when you hunch your shoulders.
If you have a weak core or upper back muscles, it can be difficult not to slouch when sitting or standing. Ask your provider about strengthening and posture correction exercises you can do to correct this problem. When your muscles are strong, they’ll be able to hold you upright easier.
4. Try a Different Pillow
Your sleeping position has just as much effect on your back and neck health as your posture at work. Different sleeping positions require different pillows to keep your spine correctly aligned. If you’re a side sleeper, you need a pillow thick enough to fill the gap between your shoulder and head. Back sleepers need a pillow that raises their head enough to keep it aligned without pushing it forward. Stomach sleepers need a very thin pillow. If you aren’t using the right pillow for your sleep position, you could put yourself at greater risk for back and neck pain.
Some pillows are made to accommodate both back and side sleepers. Look at your options and choose one with a trial period so you can see if it’s right for you. Sleeping with the right pillow is always essential, but if you already suffer from neck pain, it could mean the difference between waking up in agony or feeling great in the morning. You’ll need a good pillow while you go through treatment for your neck pain, so your sleep position isn’t working against your treatment goals.
Neck Pain Treatment in Houston
At Vanguard Spine & Sport, we offer comprehensive treatment for neck pain, and posture correction therapy. We help our patients get out of pain and back to life. Schedule a consultation to receive a personalized treatment plan.