Chances are you don’t think about the muscles surrounding your neck much. These muscles hold your head up and allow it to move it in different directions.
These muscles allow you to trace a bug flying across the room, or to follow a tennis ball as you get ready to swing back at it. Then one day, you wake up and suddenly can’t move your head, or can only turn to one side. And you experience, the pain in the neck.
That’s a scenario none of us want, but it’s more common than we realize.
The neck is made up of many small muscles and carries a lot of nerves, and can easily suffer from a disc injury or pinched nerves. Due to its mobility and flexibility, the neck has a high risk of damage.
What can go wrong?
A “pulled muscle” (or muscle strain), occurs when a muscle is stretched or exerted beyond its limits. In severe cases, it can lead to a muscle tear.
A “slipped disc” (which can be a herniated or bulging disc) is a disc that has been pushed beyond its boundaries. It may even bulge out and spill into the surrounding area, putting pressure on the nerve, muscles, or ligaments.
Herniated discs usually begin without any symptoms, but may sometimes start with numbness, tingling, or even sharp pain.
These are the common causes of a herniated disc:
- Poor body mechanics with daily activities (like frequently lifting or bending improperly)
- Poor posture (in sitting or standing, or too much time on the computer)
- Sports injuries that require a lot of running, jumping or extreme flexibility (like gymnastics)
Common ways to injure your neck can be a fall or an accident, but sometimes neck pain appears out of nowhere. Years of abuse — like poor posture or poor body mechanics — can trigger an incident.
Read below to see what our therapists at Activbody Physical Therapy in Orange, CA, recommend to help you “take the load off your neck.”
The Consequences of Neck Inactivity
Too much stress on the neck is surely the most frequent reason of injury to the neck muscles. However, a second reason is slightly less threatening, but more common –inactivity.
Not using the muscles in the neck regularly through moderate activity may lead to poor posture, sudden overuse, and other stresses on the neck. This could result in stiff muscles, joints, and ligaments and may suffer from poor blood flow.
Inactivity by itself can make the neck more responsive to joint degeneration!
The consequences of its inactivity are amplified as we age. This can lead to degeneration of the bones and joints in the neck.
Regular exercise, like walking, swimming, or even playing golf, can help keep these problems at bay.
Interestingly, the X-ray of an elderly person’s neck who is more active may look “younger” than the X-ray of the neck of an inactive person in his thirties.
Don’t underestimate the importance of exercising those small, but important, muscles of your neck.
Call us physical therapists at Activbody Physical Therapy in Orange, CA, today to see how we can help get your neck to feel and function “younger”.
The Best Treatment for Your Neck
Some neck problems, like a mild sprain or strain, may get better simply with rest and ice.
Other injuries, like a pinched nerve or disc injury, may need a more advanced physical therapy plan tailored to your particular type of damage, like:
- Specific exercises to strengthen the neck and improve range of motion, and
- Modalities (like heat/ice, electrical stimulation, or ultrasound).
Here are some tips to keep your neck moving and functioning pain-free:
- If your job requires you to frequently lift, then you have to make sure to keep good posture as you are lifting.
- Remember lift with your legs, not your arms or back!
- If you have to stand for long hours – try using a low footstool to prop up one foot, alternating feet from time to time.
- If you are at a computer all day – keep your chair, desk, and monitor at the proper heights.
Call us at Activbody Physical Therapy in Orange, CA, to schedule a complete analysis of your neck injury. Remember, help is only a phone call away.