Neck Pain? These 6 Factors Could Be Causing It

· June 29, 2016
Keeping it in the wrong position for an extended period of time can lead to neck pain. You need to take a break from time to time to stretch and improve your posture

Neck pain is a very common ailment. From little kids to seasoned workers and retirees, most people have had pain in the neck at some point or another.

In fact, an estimated seven out of ten people suffer from neck pain at some point in their lives, but it’s usually not a chronic problem and disappears on its own.

Several environmental factors affect the appearance of this problem: stress, poor posture, and other unhealthy habits can influence the manifestation. The good thing is: you have it in your hands to solve the problem!

Neck pain is usually caused by too much strain in the muscles that surround this part of your spine as they try to realign it to its normal curvature.

That’s why it’s not surprising that you might also experience shoulder problems and even headaches.

While it’s usually not a major health problem, you should still try to avoid neck pain because it can lead to serious problems, such as degeneration of the spine.

If you’re suffering from neck pain but are unsure of the cause, take a look at some of the most common factors affecting neck pain and various ways to prevent it.

1. Weak muscles

it's important to care for your neck and throat
A study carried out by Finnish researchers found a strong relationship between weak spinal muscles and neck pain. Leading a sedentary lifestyle, constant stress, or sudden movements are common causes of degradation in the neck muscles.

The problem can be exacerbated when you don’t get enough nutrition from food or you’re overextending your body during exercise. Expert’s recommendation is to gradually strengthen the muscles by doing physical therapy and other exercises.

See also: How to tone your chest muscles

2. Poor posture

Poor posture while sitting or standing for an extended period of time can cause pain and trigger some serious consequences for your bones and joints.

Staying in the same position for hours, in front of a computer, for example, can cause your muscles to become rigid and more susceptible to injury.

Something similar can happen to people who sew or engage in other activities that require the neck to be bent for long periods of time.

It’s a good idea to take breaks every 20 to 30 minutes to stretch and correct your posture.

You might also like: 5 Recommendations to Improve Your Posture and Relieve Back Pain

3. Emotional problems

emotional turmoil is related to neck pain
Until a few decades ago, many medical professionals didn’t want to recognize the strong relationship between your emotional and physical health.

A German study carried out in Gottingen University showed that much of the pain you have in your spinal region can be due to emotional strain.

Anxiety, worry, stress, and depression are states of mind that generate a lot of pressure on the body. Emotional turmoil usually impacts the body by increasing overall tension in your muscles, especially in your back, shoulders, and neck. In turn, this can be a common cause for pain in the neck, headaches and shoulder tension. 

4. Chemical reactions

Your body’s responses to various chemical and nerve stimuli have also been linked to episodes of neck pain.

Excessive consumption of coffee, alcohol, and meat products can cause changes in the body’s pH, triggering inflammation and other negative reactions. In turn, this could negatively impact your health by increasing neck pain and other inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

5. Cigarette and alcohol use

smoking has several bad effects on your health
Toxic compounds in cigarettes can cause chronic diseases in your vital organs and tissues.

Drinking heavily increases the strain on your back and neck because alcohol dehydrates the discs and accelerates their deterioration. It would be better for your health to avoid heavy cigarette or alcohol use and exercise moderation. On the other hand, always keep water on hand and make it a point to be hydrated. It will be easier for your body to flush out toxins and you’ll be healthier because of it.

6. Continuous use of a smartphone

People who use their smartphone continuously are more likely to suffer from neck and back pain than those who only use it when they need to.

Several studies have found a relation between smartphone use and neck pain. One study carried out in South Korea showed that heavy smartphone use caused significant more tension in the cervical spine.

Every time you lower your head to look at your phone you compress your neck muscles, building up the tension. Experts recommend keeping a neutral spinal posture when using your phone, as well as avoiding spending hours on end looking at the screen.

Recommendations to prevent pain in the neck

neck pain is common among office workers
In addition to avoiding most of the triggers we mentioned above, here are a few guidelines that you can implement to avoid neck pain.

  • Do stretching exercises at least once a day.
  • Target your back, shoulders, head, and neck with these exercises.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress with a pillow that’s not too tall.
  • Try to keep your posture upright and don’t sit for prolonged periods.
  • Be careful when lifting heavy objects form the floor and ask for help if possible.
  • Sleep on your back or side, avoiding sleeping on your stomach.
  • Wear a coat when the temperatures drop.
  • Eat foods that are rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium, all of which are essential for healthy muscles and joints.

Now that you know what might be causing your neck pain, try some of these healthy habits to keep it from ruining your day.

If your pain persists even though you’re following these guidelines, see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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  • Park, J., Kim, J., Kim, J., Kim, K., Kim, N., Choi, I., … & Yim, J. (2015). The effects of heavy smartphone use on the cervical angle, pain threshold of neck muscles and depression. Advanced Science and Technology Letters91, 12-17.
  • Xie, Y., Szeto, G. P., Dai, J., & Madeleine, P. (2016). A comparison of muscle activity in using touchscreen smartphone among young people with and without chronic neck–shoulder pain. Ergonomics59(1), 61-72.
  • Ylinen, J., Salo, P., Nykänen, M., Kautiainen, H., & Häkkinen, A. (2004). Decreased isometric neck strength in women with chronic neck pain and the repeatability of neck strength measurements1. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation85(8), 1303-1308.
  • Silverman, J. L., Rodriquez, A. A., & Agre, J. C. (1991). Quantitative cervical flexor strength in healthy subjects and in subjects with mechanical neck pain. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation72(9), 679-681.
  • Blozik E, Laptinskaya D, Herrmann-Lingen C, Schaefer H, Kochen MM, Himmel W, Scherer M. Depression and anxiety as major determinants of neck pain: a cross-sectional study in general practice. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2009 Jan 26;10:13. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2474-10-13. PubMed PMID: 19171034; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2636754.