Have you ever woken up with a stiff pain in your neck? If so, you’re not alone. Neck pain is one of the most common types of pain people experience. It’s so common that most of us just chalk it up to sleeping in an uncomfortable position and go about our day. But if you’re experiencing chronic neck pain, you might have more serious issues to address. These issues could be a degenerative disc in your neck, osteoarthritis in the spine near your neck, fibromyalgia, or even meningitis.
Treatable medical conditions aside, these common pains can be caused by poor posture, poor ergonomics in our work or home environments, or even how we sleep. Luckily, there are a few things you can do to limit the neck pains and ideally, avoid any long-term damage.
Fix Your Posture
Poor posture is probably the most common reason why people experience neck pain. Too often, we hunch over our computers or smartphones in ways the human body just wasn’t made to do. By keeping your neck bent forward or down, you could be doing long-term irreversible damage.
The best way to address this is to fix your posture. We need to be more conscious of how we stand, sit, and even walk. Think of your spine as a long cord, with the top of it coming out of the crown of your head. That cord should always be as straight as possible. No matter what kind of position you’re in, it’s important to try to be self-aware of the position your head is in, and to gently correct it as needed. This might seem challenging or even silly at first, but over time, you’ll notice the difference as your pain decreases.
Get Ergonomic Furniture
Whether it’s your desk at work, your couch at home, or even your dining room table, the furniture you use has a tremendous impact on your posture. Any neck pain you’re experiencing could be affecting you. It’s good to have an ergonomically designed workspace, but since most of us don’t get to choose our furniture, remember these simple tips to maintain good posture:
- Adjust your chair so that your feet touch the floor, with both your knees and hips bent at 90-degree angles.
- Your keyboard should be positioned so that when you’re typing, your elbows are at your side in 90-degree angles.
- Adjust your screen distance and angle to about an arm’s length away from your body. You should be able to see the screen without having to bend your neck forward.
Get a Better Pillow
It’s quite common to experience neck pain after a bad night of sleep, especially if you don’t have a pillow that properly supports your neck. Of course, the position you prefer to sleep in also dramatically contributes to this, and the type of pillow you get should match your preferred sleep position. If you sleep on your back, a low pillow is ideal. If you sleep on your side, you will want a higher pillow that you can tuck between your shoulder and your chin or cheek. Sleeping on your stomach is generally not recommended, but if that’s your preferred position, a lower pillow—or even no pillow at all—is recommended. Remember, no matter what position you prefer, the goal is to keep your neck aligned with your body.