Neck Pain: Out with the Old, In with the New

Modern technology has created a lot of flexibility in workspaces. The traditional 9-5 is morphing, with more people working remotely from wherever they are. That might mean creating space at home or having a moveable setup for use in a coffee shop or conference room. Being fluid with workspaces helps people escape the problem of being stuck in a cubicle all day, but it has downsides too.

It means your “office” may be anything from a couch to an Uber. Plus, the line between work and home is becoming blurry. When we used to be able to power down at the end of the day, we now have 24-hour access to emails and texts, and often use phones and tablets for our entertainment well into the night.

Which leads to my next question: How is your neck feeling? 

If you answer is “not great,” you aren’t alone. An increase in driving, computer work, and phone use is upping the daily physical stress for a lot of us. As an acupuncturist, I see patients with a variety of issues, but one part of the body that continually frustrates people is their tight neck. Our physical therapists see this a lot too. We even joke that “text neck” is becoming an epidemic. 

Symptoms mentioned include tension and discomfort, pops and cracks in the spine, head-forward posture, knots, and muscle spasms. The neck is a common storage place for mental and emotional strain: Some of us literally wear our stress with our shoulders creeping closer to our ears as energy demands mount.

So, where do we go from here?

Step one is to be mindful about how we hold ourselves. Step two is integrating positive habits to  minimize the damage. 

In terms of acupuncture, any kind of pain is considered stagnation, or blockage, in the free flow of blood and energy through the body. Solving pain conditions requires unblocking “stuck” regions of the body and keeping it unblocked. To do that, we insert small needles into the affected area, unblocking the channels and promoting relaxation of muscles, improved blood flow, and reduction of inflammation, all easing the pain. 

Being proactive is critical, too. Try integrating some of the following healthy habits:

  1. Retrain your muscles to let go at the end of the day: That could be with a short stretch routine or use of a warm herbal wrap. The warmth will encourage blood flow and help relax your muscles. It also retrains your muscles to let go rather than stay tight.
  2. Hang upside down: If you aren’t able to be completely upside down, at least get your head below your heart. Try a forward bend to release tension and allow your head and shoulders to fully relax and hang heavily. 
  3. Pay attention to your ergonomic set-up: Establish a primary typing zone with a set-up that reduces strain on your neck and shoulders. 
  4. Change positions often: Get up to use the restroom, roll your shoulders, take a phone call while walking, stretch your arms above your head. Do anything you can to get positional variety into your day.
  5. Come in for physical therapy: Our PT's can prescribe exercises specific to your neck’s needs.
  6. Try yoga: Flow your way to wellness in one of our classes to lengthen and strengthen your muscles.