October 2015

7 Ways to Prevent Neck Pain

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As a chiropractor neck pain is something I deal with daily. As a result I’m frequently asked what can be done to reduce it. Today I’ll discuss 7 things I’ve found most effective for reducing neck pain.

1. Computer ergonomics. Neck muscles are small and designed for regular motion – looking up, down, side to side, etc. When they remain in a single position for too long they are forced to carry a greater load than what they’re designed for. Staring into computer screens for hours at a time is the most common culprit for this these days.
The fix: Sit with your shoulders back, head in a neutral (not forward) position, use a bigger monitor and make sure your monitor is in front of you and not to one side.

2. Devices. These days most of us have smart phones or tablets that we use regularly (often too regularly). When reading or playing on them we usually do so with our heads bent forward. This puts significant strain on the muscles and vertebrae of the neck leading to potential problems.
The fix: Rather than bringing your head down toward the device, bring the device up toward you so that you can look at it without bending the neck. This will eliminate neck strain.

3. Sleeping position. Another frequent cause of neck pain is a poor sleeping position – often using either too many pillows or too few. This places minimal stress on one side of the neck while applying significant stress on to the other. Signs of this are difficulty falling asleep due to discomfort and/or pain upon waking.
The fix: A pillow with a cervical contour or simply sleeping with a pillow sized so that your neck muscles feel relaxed on both sides when lying on it will help. Also, avoid sleeping on your stomach as this requires your neck to be turned to one side which will inevitably cause problems.

4. Stretch. In my experience while people often take time to stretch their backs, few stretch or loosen their neck muscles. This can lead to tight muscles, lack of mobility and often pain.
The fix: First, perform basic range of motion a few times throughout the day by simply moving your head and neck forward to back, side to side and then tip it from side to side. Next, do these same ranges of motion against resistance. For example, as you rotate your head to the right, do so into your right hand which is applying gentle pressure toward the left. This helps strengthen the muscles of the neck.

5. Posture. If you look at pictures of yourself you may notice that you have a tendency to have your head forward or tipped to one side. These poor positions are common and apply undue stress to the muscles and vertebrae of the neck and upper back leading to pain and other issues.
The fix: Start by drawing your breastbone back to improve your posture, this will keep your shoulders, head and even hips in a neutral, healthier position. Second, I recommend “postural checkpoints.” These are mental prompts you create for yourself to help monitor your posture. For example, if you tend to slouch while driving, create a checkpoint when you stop to remind yourself to “sit up straight.” After a week or two these become automatic and help decrease neck pain (and other pains as well).

6. De-stress. Stress has a negative effect on muscles making them tighter, less mobile and often sore. This is particularly true for the muscles from ranging from the neck down through your middle back.
The fix: There is no one cure for stress but in general things such as meditation, exercise, spending more time with people that build your confidence/make you happy, creating “me time”, having a hobby and other such things are effective.

7. Checkups. As mentioned in my introduction, neck pain is something I deal with daily because of how effective chiropractic can be in curing it. Our spines our constantly pressured via many of the things mentioned in this post. This can lead to arthritic changes of your spine (long term) as well as pressure on nerves that cause pain and other unpleasant symptoms (short or long term).
The fix: Treat your spine like you would your teeth, get regular checkups so that problems do not develop and so you’re not forced to endure unnecessary pain.

Dr. Kenney has won multiple awards for “Best Chiropractor” and specializes in helping patients achieve their goals of better health and pain relief. For more information please visit www.NewBodyChiro.com, find us on Facebook (New Body Chiropractic & Wellness Center) or call (303) 347-9906.

Matt Kenney7 Ways to Prevent Neck Pain
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My 10 favorite exercise tips

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1. There is never a perfect time. Whenever I speak to people about exercise I always like to start with this. The longer you wait the tougher it is to get started. Begin today even if it’s just a little something to build your confidence and generate some momentum moving forward.

2. Pain and soreness are different. Soreness is an expected response after new or intense exercise and will subside usually within 1-3 days. Pain on the other hand is an abnormal response that can debilitate you in the short term and make you worse in the long term if you try to push through it. If you’re in pain visiting someone such as a chiropractor that can correct the problem is a good option.
3. Avoid stopping and starting. I speak to people regularly that get into a groove with exercise and then take weeks off at a time. The more you stop, the harder it is to start again and your progress will also suffer. Some weeks you may be able to do more than others but avoid the temptation to do nothing for extended periods of time.

4. Shake it up. Your body is an efficient machine. If you give it the same stimulus each time it has no reason to get stronger, faster or produce better results. For gym workouts vary your weights, workout order, exercises, rest between sets, etc. For cardiovascular training vary your distances, pace and terrain. Changing things up always produces better results.

5. Don’t get married to 1 type of exercise. Many people fall in love with a certain type of exercise they enjoy and ignore everything else. I know weightlifters that spend hours at the gym but forget that the heart is also a muscle and that cardiovascular exercise is important. Likewise, I know runners and cyclists that don’t understand that weight training would only make them more successful at those activities. Have a variety of exercise for better results.

6. Quality over quantity. There is a misconception that exercise must take hours at a time in order to produce results. This causes many people to avoid it altogether. The reality is that you can achieve excellent results in minimal time if you do it properly. I work out 4 days a week in the gym and my weight workouts usually only take me 20-25 minutes because I rest only minimally between sets (15-30 seconds) and never stop moving.

7. Intensity matters. While there’s no such thing as a bad workout, if you’re showing up to a gym and reading the newspaper for 5 minutes between sets your results aren’t going to amount to much. When you exercise focus on what you’re trying to accomplish and give it all your effort while you’re there.

8. Set a goal. People often set very generic goals such as weight loss or trying to have a better body. In my experience, the more broad the goal the less likely the chances of attaining it. What I encourage people to do is sign up for a race or an event. Doing so gives purpose to your training and motivates you to not show up out of shape. Even better, find an event out of your comfort zone and you’ll train harder and smarter than ever before. I’ve known far more people that have lost weight and built better bodies after signing up for 5Ks or mud runs than I have in making New Year’s resolutions.

9. Make it convenient. The best gym in the world won’t help you if you can’t make it there regularly. Select workout spots, types of exercise, etc that will make it the easiest for you to stay consistent.

10. Find someone that knows what they’re doing. I see people at the gym with great intentions that have no idea what they’re doing and are at risk for injuries as a result. Find a qualified trainer or someone with experience to show you some basics. This will give you confidence and lead to better and faster results.

Dr. Kenney has won multiple awards for “Best Chiropractor” and specializes in helping patients achieve their goals of better health and pain relief. For more information please visit www.NewBodyChiro.com, find us on Facebook (New Body Chiropractic & Wellness Center) or call (303) 347-9906.

Matt KenneyMy 10 favorite exercise tips
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