Lower back pain gets a lot of attention both online and in the mainstream media, and for good reason—millions of Americans, both young and old, experience it every day. But, neck and upper back pain can be just as unpleasant and debilitating, and it is often looked over. If you regularly experience tension and soreness in these areas, they are likely due to one of the 3 main causes listed below. By being aware of them, you can help stop the pain at its source.
1. Poor Posture
Over the last few years, you’ve likely seen countless headlines and stories about people spending more and more time staring at screens, whether it’s a phone, a tablet, TV, or laptop. While looking at a screen in itself shouldn’t cause any harm to the neck or back, the problem lies in people’s posture—that is, almost everyone has their head tilted downward. Despite anyone’s overall size, the head is quite heavy, and when you’re looking down, this removes the spine’s support. As a result, the neck and upper back have to overwork to keep someone stable, which causes these muscles to overwork, tire out, and develop pain.
While it might look a little funny at first, holding your phone up at eye level when reading it can make a huge difference, as can adjusting your chair or desk so your computer monitor is slightly above your eye line. This will naturally cause you to hold your head right over your spine so your neck and back can relax.
2. Staying Static
Despite the myriad of articles and videos out there, there is no such thing as perfect posture. “Poor posture” in itself isn’t that bad if a person doesn’t stay in it for too long. The bigger problem is someone remaining in the same position for hours at a time. Even if you sit perfectly straight, your neck and upper back can become stiff. That’s because the body is designed to move.
This is why getting up from the chair or couch at least once an hour and taking a brief walk can be so helpful. It allows your body to “reset” and releases any tension spots that might be developing.
3. Improper Sleeping Position
The neck and back are made of an intricate collection of muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments all stacked upon one another. As such, there are many ways these parts of the body can become strained or injured. While motor vehicle and sports-related accidents are common, a lesser-known source is sleeping position. If you sleep on a pillow or in a position where your head and neck aren’t supported, this can definitely lead to pain. Ideally, while laying down, your head, neck, and spine should be basically in a straight line. If this isn’t the case for you, try adding or removing pillows as needed.
Of course, for more serious neck and back issues, you should always talk to a doctor to get a full diagnosis, which can then give you access to more robust treatments. When addressed early, most neck and back issues can be solved quickly and non-surgically, leading to lasting relief and more comfortable days.
About the Author
Dr. Paul Tortland is a doctor of Osteopathic Medicine who has successfully treated college, amateur, and professional athletes for decades using cutting-edge regenerative medicine techniques. If you frequently suffer from neck and upper back pain, and these tips don’t make it completely go away, he can offer the help you need. To learn more about your options and start feeling better today, click here.