A pain in the neck

Author: Angela Leung, HK reg PT, HCPC, AACP

Neck pain can be truly debilitating, with the average Hong Kong adult working 27% more hours than the global average, neck pain caused by screen time and use of technology has been on the rise. Let’s dive into what causes neck pain and how you can reduce that pesky pain in the neck!

What causes neck pain?

Neck pain can be caused by stiffness of the joints, tightness of muscles around the neck, or conditions such as osteoarthritis, but gone are the days that neck pain were predominantly caused by aging or injuries. In recent years, the biggest cause of neck pain is prolonged bad posture when using technology such as mobile phones, laptops, and tablets.

You may find yourself every few hours at your desk, cradling your neck and turning your head to find relief to your neck pain – If that is you, here are some reasons why!

When we sit in prolonged postures looking at a screen, or focusing on a task, our muscles are working hard to keep our neck in that position. Our muscles work in groups or pairs, and just like a scale, it needs to be relatively balanced on either side. However, when that position has been held for several hours, our muscles can become fatigued, especially if these postures are unbalanced.

What can I do to avoid neck pain?

Firstly, look at the setup of your desk. Your screen needs to be level with your eyes, and you should be at least an arm’s length distance from your screen. Pull your keyboard close to you with your forearms resting on a flat surface, your mouse should be in line with your keyboard. Finally, put a rolled-up towel behind the small of your back to instantly correct your posture.

Secondly, stretch those tight muscles. As previously mentioned, muscles work in pairs or groups, so it is important that we stretch the front, the sides, and the back of the neck equally.

Here are 3 simple stretches you can do to stretch the different muscles groups around the neck.

  1. Bring your ear towards your shoulder, with the hand gently pull the neck to your shoulder, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 times.
  2. Look down at your shirt pocket at a 45-degree angle, with the hand gently push the head towards the floor. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 2 times.
  3. Sit on both hands, and then look up behind you and feel the stretch at the front of your neck. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 2 times.

Finally, keep the neck moving. Every hour move the neck in all directions and this will help the joints stay “oiled” up and prevent the joints from seizing up. Simply look down, look up, look left and right and finally bring ear towards the shoulder on each side.

If you are suffering with neck pain and you have tried all the tips above, book an appointment with our physiotherapists and get it looked at sooner rather than later.

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