American lifestyles contribute to a number of conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even neck pain. More than a quarter of Americans will experience neck pain during their lifetime. Unfortunately, many believe it is a natural part of aging. What if I told you that wasn’t necessarily true? Many of our daily habits contribute to the development and progression of neck discomfort. Since this is true, what daily habits can we modify? Here are 3 tips: use an ergonomic pillow, hold your phone and tablet at eye level when using them, and limit pro-inflammatory foods.
How does an ergonomic pillow relieve neck pain?
There is a normal alignment to your neck. As your spine shifts away from normal, it puts stress on the bones, discs, muscles, and nerves that make up your spine. This abnormal stress can initiate pain – as well as accelerate degeneration of your spine. Americans tend to sleep 7-8 hours per night. This is a long time to sleep in a position that compromises your neck. In order to counter this, an ergonomic pillow should be used.
Ergonomic pillows should mold to the normal curve of a neck. When you are sleeping on your back, you want a pillow that doesn’t flex your head up. Rather, it should have a slight wedge to raise your upper back and allow your head to rest comfortably slightly below it. To visualize this, imagine laying on the floor on your back. If you roll up a towel and put it under your neck, you will experience the concept. Also, when you are sleeping on your side, you want a pillow that matches your shoulder width. When measured appropriately, your head will not flex up or down when laying on your side. For an idea of the shape I personally recommend, check out Therapeutica pillows.
Hold your phone and tablet at eye level to reduce neck pain.
There is an epidemic of text neck running rampant in the United States. The reason being, we are constantly using technology. If you have been around the past 6 months, you may have noticed an army of teens walking around communities searching for Pokemon. You may have also noticed that they were walking around with their head flexed down to stare at their screen.
When you do things like: text your friends while staring down at your phone, sit on a couch and stare down at a tablet, play Pokemon Go – you put your neck in a stressed situation. It is like a car being out of alignment. It progressively wears down muscles, ligaments, discs and bones and can contribute to neck pain. How can you combat this? Try holding your phone and tablet at eye level when you are using the device. Maybe you can’t use this strategy every time, but the more you do – the more your neck and body will thank you.
Limit pro-inflammatory foods to relieve neck pain.
Wait, is this article saying that food choices can contribute to pain? Absolutely. Whenever your body is injured, tissues release chemicals that cause an inflammatory response. This is healthy and should resolve fairly shortly. This inflammation also tells receptors in your body that something is wrong and you will experience pain. Chronic inflammation, unfortunately, causes your body’s natural inflammatory process to last longer than it should which contributes to pain. So, what type of foods are highly pro-inflammatory?
- Trans fats
- Refined carbs – such as white bread or pretty much anything that comes pre-packaged
- Anything that contains wheat, even if it is whole wheat.
These foods tend to promote a chronic inflammatory process in the body. Even whole wheat , which is unfortunately promoted as a staple for a healthy diet, is not good for you in large amounts. Does this mean you should no longer consumer whole wheat? I am definitely not saying that. After all, whole wheat (not refined wheat products) still contains beneficial health properties. I am just not sure you want to consume an excess amount daily.
Neck pain is definitely a major concern for many Americans – and one that can be expensive to treat. However, many cases are “preventable” if we modify a few items we do daily. Using an ergonomic pillow, holding smart phones and other technology at eye level, and reducing pro-inflammatory foods are a good start. Will this end the neck pain epidemic? I do not think so. However, it will help reduce it immensely.