No matter if you travel to and from work by car, train, bicycle, or some other mode of transportation, there will no doubt come a time when the stress of the commute becomes a literal pain in the neck. The stress factors are myriad: drivers who cut you off without an acknowledgement; commuter trains that show up late (or not at all), or sit idle on the track for no apparent reason; drivers oblivious to the clearly marked bike lanes.
A buildup of stress during morning and afternoon rush hour can create tension in the neck muscles, to the point that even nodding your head or turning to check your blind spot can be excruciating. Sometimes it hurts so bad, you might start considering laser spine surgery for neck pain relief.
There is another potential problem for commuters, beyond raised blood pressure and road rage: Neck pain might not merely be a case of tense, strained muscles. One of the main risk factors for exacerbating age-related deterioration within the cervical (neck) region of the spine is repetitive motion, along with the closely related habitual poor posture. The best way to treat your spine when you’re sitting is to hold your head level and your shoulders square, but, often, keeping a good posture is not your priority.
Commuting Posture and Neck Pain
It’s easy to let things slip, especially during the morning and afternoon commute, when your head is often on a swivel to make sure you don’t get hit by another vehicle in traffic. Anyone who has to make that nightmare drive morning and night, five days a week, understands that the farther you drive, the more you tend to sink down in your seat. Your shoulders hunch, your neck muscles tighten – it’s just not a healthy way to sit. Similarly, if you commute by train, sitting hunched in your seat sometimes just feels more comfortable. That’s understandable, but it’s not a great idea to make a habit of it, because slouching in your seat places excess strain on the spinal anatomy, which is already under a great deal of stress.
Cycling, Driving and Neck Pain
If possible during your commute, try to remember to maintain sound posture. If you drive or ride a train, make sure your seat has plenty of lumbar support. This not only helps the lower back; it also makes it easier to maintain a level head and square shoulders. If you ride a bike, maintain proper riding posture – back straight, head up. Even if you walk to work, it’s important to maintain proper posture to avoid placing undue stress on your neck and the rest of your spine.
If you find that even practicing good posture during your commute doesn’t help curb neck or lower back pain, talk to your physician about further steps you can take to manage your symptoms. Neck pain exercises, acupuncture, massage therapy and even yoga can all be helpful in avoiding neck pain when commuting.