Neck pain is such a big problem that it is best described by the idiom it inspired: it's a real pain in the neck. But sometimes neck pain can be more than a little stiffness after sleeping in a cramped position- it can impede the activities that make up your day to day life.
Today we'll have a look at neck pain: what can cause it, its implications for your bone health, and how to prevent or eliminate it. Read on for useful tips for getting to the root cause of neck pain and routing it out.
Causes Of Neck Pain
The neck is an important thoroughfare in the body. It contains the esophagus and trachea, through which transits the food we eat and the air we breathe. It contains major arteries, nerves that allow communication between our body and our brain, the cervical spine, and much more.
It should come as no surprise then, that neck pain can be caused by a wide array of actions or conditions that impact the nerves, spine, muscles, and even glands.
Common causes of neck pain include:
- Holding a physical position for extended periods of time
- Sleeping in a misaligned position
- Jerking motions
- Neck injuries
- Herniated spinal disc
- A pinched nerve
- Degenerative disc disease
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Conditions such as fibromyalgia that affect the neck muscles
- Forward Head Posture (FHP)
Some of these causes, such as Forward Head Posture, also have implications for bone health. That makes neck pain a potential indicator that a problem or condition may also be harmful to your bones.
There are many causes of neck pain, including arthritis, injury, pinched nerves, and forward head posture.
Neck Pain and Bone Health
There are several ways that neck pain can indirectly impact bone health.
Forward head posture (FHP) is a common cause of neck pain. It occurs when the head is held in a position where the neck vertebrae are not aligned but instead, the head is forward in front of the torso. This causes considerable strain on the muscles in and around the neck, which are attempting to support the head without the structural support of an aligned spine.
This tension can cause pain and lead to kyphosis (Dowager's Hump). In a study of nearly 600 women, FHP and hyperkyphosis were linked to an increased risk of fracture.1
No matter what the cause of neck pain, it may interfere with participating in regular exercise. Exercise stimulates the development of new bone- which is why its such a foundational part of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program. If neck pain can prevent exercise, then neck pain prevents the development of healthy and strong bones.
Furthermore, neck pain lures many people into taking painkillers to find relief. Not only do painkillers fail to address the root cause of the neck pain, but they are acidifying. Chronic acidosis causes a variety of health problems, including bone loss.2
Neck pain is related to bone loss in several ways. Forward Head Posture strains the neck and also increases the risk of fracture. If neck pain interferes with getting exercise, then bone health suffers. Painkillers taken for relief from neck pain are acidifying.
How To Avoid Neck Pain
Here are some useful tips for avoiding neck pain:
- Watch your posture. Think about keeping your head balanced atop your spine, not extended forward in front of your torso.
- Don't pinch your phone between your shoulder and your ear.
- Be sure that any screen you use or watch is positioned at eye level- and for printed materials, try using a document holder that allows you to maintain good posture while you read.
- Sleep with a pillow that keeps your neck straight- there are neck pillows manufactured for this purpose
- Pay attention to the balance between the two halves of your body- don't hold your weight more on one side than the other.
- Avoid activities that involve jerking or whipping motions of the head or body.
- Practice exercises and stretches that engage the neck and core- and if you find yourself feeling a little stiff, take a moment to do some gentle neck stretches side to side and front to back.
Neck pain can be avoided or eliminated through simple adjustments in behavior, and a regular exercise.
Exercises For Your Neck And Spine
Physical activity, and in particular exercises that gently strengthen the core and upper body muscles, are the most powerful tools for stopping neck pain and protecting your spine.
Stretches and targeted exercises increase range of motion and build muscular support for the head and spine. This reduces pressure on nerves and vertebrae and improves alignment to help reduce muscle tension and poor posture. Simultaneously, weight-bearing exercise applies positive stress on bones that stimulate new bone growth, increasing bone quality.
Try these exercises that have been specially designed to accomplish these important goals:
Simple exercises like the ones linked above greatly help to prevent and eliminate neck pain.
Defeat Neck Pain And Celebrate By Living Fully
Neck pain can derail your daily life and wreak havoc on your physical well-being, including your bone health. Increasing strength and flexibility are the most effective tools for preventing injury and supporting your neck and spine.
The exercises in Densercise — the Save Institute's fully illustrated workout guide- are designed to increase muscle strength and stability as a means of preventing falls and building bone. The simple step by step instructions (and online video tutorials!) will ensure that you're making the most of your workouts to achieve optimal physical health.
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