Bad posture often happens when one gets used to bad postural habits, such as slouching while sitting or simply leaning on 1 leg. These bad habits often enable poor posture, which affects the back and, in turn, the neck as well.
Bad posture can also result from a lack of exercise. The abs and lower back make up our core, which is what keeps our upper bodies from falling apart. If one’s core muscles are weak, it becomes harder for the spine to stay upright, which results in bad posture.
To fix bad posture, we recommend doing core-strengthening exercises for at least 5 minutes a day — even simple ab exercises, yoga, or pilates will help strengthen the core enough to reduce bad posture.
There are also specific stretches for improving posture. They should only take 5 minutes and minimal effort. But it’s important to note that these stretches must be done every day for their effects to be noticeable.
Often, we don’t notice how poorly we angle our necks, especially when staring at our computer, phone, or TV. We don’t notice it because the pain doesn’t happen right away. It happens after we maintain the position for a long period of time.
The thing is, when we slant our neck forward in such a way that our head is in front of our shoulders (rather than directly above them), the neck works extra hard to maintain that position.
This extra effort puts unnecessary stress on the neck muscles and can result in neck pain if the angle of the neck is not corrected — similar to how one’s shoulders will hurt if they stretch it out for a long enough period of time.
To correct neck position and avoid unnecessary neck pain, try the following:
- Figure out what is causing the poor neck position. Possible causes are the height of one’s computer monitor, the level at which one views their phone, the height of one’s TV, etc.
- Make sure your monitor is at eye level. If your computer monitor is too high or low, adjust the height and bring the top of the monitor to eye level. The perfect monitor height will take a few tries to get right, but it pays off in the end.
- Make sure your phone is at eye level. If you’re looking down when you use your phone, try wedging your clenched fist underneath the armpit of your phone-holding arm. Doing this brings your phone screen up to eye level. Do the same thing when you read books.
- Adjust car head rest. When driving, it is also important to pay attention to one’s neck position. To prevent neck pain from occurring on a long drive, adjust your head rest so that it presses against the middle of your head. This keeps your neck in a neutral position and prevents neck pain.
Poor neck position is, thankfully, very fixable. As long as one constantly reminds themself to fix their neck position, the resulting neck pain shouldn’t last very long.
Sleeping in an awkward position has also been found to cause neck pain. Sleeping on one’s stomach tends to place strain on the neck and spin, while sleeping on one’s side can cause misalignment.
Obviously, there are exceptions to this, and it is sometimes okay to sleep on one’s stomach or side. But one should first make sure to use a pillow that supports the spine naturally in order to prevent neck pain.
Generally, it’s much better to just sleep on one’s back. This is often the best position to sleep as it lets the entire spine rest comfortably without stress.
If changing to a back-sleeping position still doesn’t work, getting a new pillow might help. Preferably one that supports and maintains the natural curve of the neck.
In some cases, neck pain can persist or worsen, often because of a condition or injury.
If any of the following has happened to you, consult your doctor immediately.
- Whiplash – a neck injury that involves a forceful, rapid back-and-forth of the neck, similar to the cracking of a whip; often caused by car collisions.
- Herniated disc – a spine injury that often occurs after a single excessive strain on the spine
- Degenerative disc disease – happens when one or more of the discs in the spinal column breaks down, often due to age or when bearing too much weight
- Osteoarthritis – can happen due to eroding cartilage and inflammation
- Spinal stenosis – can happen when the spinal canal narrows due to degeneration