Do you experience neck pain? This is for you.
Over the coming weeks we will dive into some of the most common physical ailments and provide recommendations on how they can be best self-managed.
Let's jump straight into it.
In a recent post we provided a bit of a crash course in pain science, and I believe that it's prudent to tap back into that just briefly. Without having an understanding on the factors within our lives that may influence our pain we will have troubles with managing it long-term.
A quick recap
Pain is not created in the body, but rather is a sensation created in the brain when the brain deduces, on the basis of all of the available information and stimuli at that moment, that the body is in danger and a change in behaviour is required.
The body tells the brain that it is in danger, not that it is in pain.
The latter is for the brain to decide.
To make the decision to produce pain, the brain must analyse a complex interplay of information from three main factors - Biological, Psychological & Social.
Pain that has been present for less than 3 months (acute pain) has a stronger biological influence. Pain that has been present for longer than 3 months (persistent/ chronic pain) is more complex and is more strongly influenced by psychological and social factors.
How about a hypothetical example. Let's say we have an individual - John - who has been experiencing neck pain on-and-off for 5 months now. Among other things, example influences from each category could be:
Biological: muscle imbalances in the neck and/or upper back, caused by prolonged sitting in an ergonomically poor workstation setup
Psychological: feeling like the management of your neck pain is out of your control - perhaps this person relies heavily on a health care provider for pain management
Social: a cultural belief regarding pain that portrays physical movement as something that should be avoided whenever one is experiencing pain
In an example like this, which is certainly not an uncommon situation, we see somebody who has a potential biological influence with their pain - the muscle imbalance. This imbalance could have played a role in the development and perpetuation of pain; however, the negative beliefs around pain would be a key limiting factor in this person's rehabilitation.
For this, we must address multiple different factors. A best practice scenario would look something like the following:
1. A progressive movement program, that focuses not only on correcting the muscle imbalance, but on the movement of the body as a whole
2. Concurrent education for this individual around pain, the influence of psychological and social factors, and the importance of exercise and keeping mobile in pain recovery
Successful implementation of these two interventions concurrently would have the additional affect of increasing John's feeling of control over his pain, allowing him to self-manage his neck pain, and any future physical ailments, with a higher sense of confidence.
Knowledge is power. Movement is medicine.
But instead of just talking about it, how about we actually give it a go...
Below you will find three exercises that focus on correcting the common muscle imbalances that are caused by prolonged sitting in a suboptimal workstation setup. The focuses of the program include:
Increase mobility of the neck and upper back
Strengthen neck extensors and upper back postural muscles
1. Seated Neck Stretch
1. Sit up straight and one hand placed on the underside of the chair
2. Gently tilt your head away from the side in which you are holding the chair
3. To deepen the stretch, use your free hand to gently increase your head tilt
4. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat twice on each side
2. Child's Pose - Side Stretch
1. Kneel down on the mat with your feet together and knees wider than hip-width apart
2. Extend your arms out in front with your hands on the mat while sinking your hips back towards your heels
3. Move both of your hands to one side to stretch the opposite side of your body
4. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat twice on each side
3. Prone Retraction
1. Lay face down on the mat with your arms by your sides
2. In one motion, lift your forehead, shoulders and chest off the mat by retracting your neck fully (tucking your chin back) and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold for 1-2 seconds
3. Complete two sets of 10 repetitions
As for the educational component - it's unfeasible for us to include all that is necessary into this blog post alone. There is a plethora of scientific research supporting the role of exercise in pain management and injury rehabilitation. Nobody is on the other side of that issue. But, for understanding pain itself, this short, 5 minute video below could be a great place to start.
Link - Persistent Pain Explained: https://www.tamethebeast.org/#tame-the-beast
Video taken from Tame The Beast (https://www.tamethebeast.org/#abouttamethebeast)
If you do experience neck pain we do encourage you to implement the movement program into your daily routine.
Let's give it a go: twice per day (morning & afternoon) for 4 weeks
These exercises are a solid starting point, but they will soon need to be progressed. If you're tracking well and are ready to move on then get in contact with us.
If you suffer from physical discomfort, or are motivated to prevent future physical issues, then the PreActive app is the one for you. We work together with academics and clinical professionals to combine the power of evidence-based physical health content and technology to produce a wellness platform that has been shown to improve the health of its users.