Neck pain is a common problem for older adults but some simple postural tips could help lower your risk of pain and disability and maintain a high quality of life, whatever your age. By keeping the spine nicely aligned you can reduce wear and tear and keep your back and neck strong and supple so as to lower your susceptibility to injury. So, without further ado..
…Are You Sitting Comfortably?
Many of us spend several hours a day sitting at desks, on the couch, in the car, or on transit and while most people know that being sedentary is generally bad for health, many don’t realise that the way that we sit is also important.
Where possible, try to choose a chair with a stable base, a proper backrest, and of an appropriate height so that you aren’t straining your neck to work at a desk or sitting with your knees higher than your hips. It’s best to avoid napping when sitting in a chair as your head will loll about and cause neck strain.
Also, try to avoid sitting in the same place for any extended amount of time while reading or knitting. Try reading while walking about the room, holding the book at face height. Or, listen to audiobooks while walking or jogging. If you do need to sit for a long time then make sure to take regular breaks to stretch, and try to change positions periodically.
It seems pretty obvious, but try to avoid holding a phone between your shoulder and your ear, or spending hours looking down at your phone or tablet in your lap. Use a headset for long conversations, and set up a tablet stand to minimise neck strain and pain.
In addition avoid sudden movements of the neck, such as twisting to talk to your co-workers. And, when standing, try to keep the chin retracted and your neck relaxed as every extra inch of forward projection puts an extra 20lbs of weight on your cervical spine.
Are You Sleeping Comfortably?
Waking up with neck pain is a sure fire way to start your day off badly. And, in the absence of clear injury or disease, when you repeatedly wake with neck pain it’s possible that the way you sleep is causing degeneration of the joints in your neck.
Make sure that your pillow is neither too high nor too low, and instead offers support for your neck in a balanced position. Special neck pain pillows are available for side-sleepers and back sleepers. Sleeping on your front is particularly bad for the neck so try to retrain yourself to develop healthy sleep habits.
If you read in bed then make sure to prop your book on a pillow, or on a breakfast table and stand so as to avoid having to look down at the book. And, again, try not to sit for too long without taking a break and changing position.
It can also help to avoid or modify activities that place strain on the neck, such as washing your hair (use the shower instead of the sink), doing laundry (avoid items that need handwashing), and cooking (reorganise items to make things easier to reach).
By figuring out ways to maintain good posture and reduce strain on the neck, you can lower your risk of neck pain later in life. Of course, if neck pain does develop and is persistent or severe then it’s essential to consult your physician as well as practicing good posture.