The 3 causes of neck pain may surprise you. According to Practical Pain Management, Neck pain has an annual prevalence rate exceeding 30% among adults in the US; nearly 50% of individuals will continue to experience some degree of chronic neck pain or frequent occurrences. You can read it at this link. In my practice I see clients daily with various type of neck pain. Neck pain can be a stiff neck, like when you have slept the wrong way. The inability to look up can be caused by sitting too much in front of a computer. Neck rotation is also a common condition and that can come from sleeping badly. Finally, whiplash from an accident.
Causes of Neck Pain
The 3 major causes of neck pain affect all the different types of neck pain listed above including whiplash. Many people end up with bulging discs and damage to the bones in their neck. Most of these injuries were created initially by these 3 causes.
Tight Chest Muscles Cause Neck Pain
Tight chest muscles will cause the head to lean forward and the shoulders to round. The pain usually appears at the base of the neck to the mid back area. Try this. Stand up and hold your shoulder straight. See how your head is on top of your shoulder. Now, let your shoulder relax forward and watch how your head leans forward. Just the movement of your shoulders can make that big of a difference. The chest muscles control the roundness of your shoulders and the hump in your back. Too many times people work very hard increasing the strength on their upper back hoping to change this but the fact is until you lengthen the chest muscles, nothing will likely change.
Tight muscles on the front of the neck. The pain is usually at the base of the neck when you try to turn your head. The problem here is that because the pain is on the backside of the neck, everybody treats the backside of the neck. There are 4 major muscles that allow the head to rotate. Two are on the backside and two on the front side. You can see the two on the front as you turn your head because they stick out. If you turn your head to the left, the rear left muscle will contract as the right front muscle releases. If the right front muscle is in a spasm, like when you slept the wrong way, then rear left muscle overworks and is painful. I have specific neck stretches for those front neck muscles at
Taking short strides walking. This is a huge surprise. How long your stride is will determine how far out front your head will be , thus creating neck pain from the base of the neck to the mid-back. Most people walk using their thighs to move their legs forward instead of bending their feet and pushing off with their toes. The reason for this is that 99% of people have never correctly stretched their calves to allow their ankles to bend through their full range of motion. By taking the shorter stride, not only are they hurting their necks, but also their low back. Older people take shorter strides to prevent falling. Younger people take shorter strides while looking at their cell phones. no matter the age, the result is the same.
How to Stop the Neck Pain
Solving the 3 causes of neck pain can be simple to do with no equipment needed. The benefit is they can save you a lifetime of pain. Start with practicing looking up every day. Lay your chin in the palm of your hands, Literally, feel the weight of your head in your hands. Using your hands, gently push up your head and hold for about 5 seconds. Only go as far as it is comfortable, no forcing it. Breathe out and pet the front of your neck relax. Repeat this 10 times. This will take a lot of pressure off the back of your neck.
You can stretch your chest muscles in a doorway. Place one arm against the door frame. usually, the whole forearm with the elbow bent. Use your feet to rotate your body away from the arm against the door. Do not twist your body, use your feet or you may get a spasm in your side. Hold for 5 seconds as you feel your chest letting go. Then repeat 10 times.
Practice walking in a hallway so you can hold onto the wall if you lose your balance. DO this barefoot so you can feel how your feet contact the floor. As you step through, the toes of the back foot should be pushing you forward and your leg straight. If this is difficult, you can see my calf stretches in videos on my YouTube Channel. These will not be like you have ever done in a gym or PT.
Once you start making changes you will see a major difference in how far you can look up and rotate which will give you relief from your neck pain. I mentioned whiplash earlier and yes whiplash is caused by an accident, but how flexible your neck is will determine how much damage you may have. Two years ago a person rear-ended my car at 50 miles an hour. She never hit her brakes as she had passed out. My Toyota Prius was totaled and I walked away with no neck injury. To this day, I have had no effects from the accident. I was lucky, but I believe that doing these stretches improved my chances.