Neck pain can be caused by trauma, inflammation and even repetitive stress on related structures. In fact, among repetitive stress injuries (RSIs), neck and shoulder pain were most common at 25%, with wrist and hand pain coming a close second at 23%.1 . Interestingly, a large portion (55%) of RSIs occur while on the job and unfortunately some occupations are more at risk.2 There are also risks associated with common household chores and sporting activities. While most people who suffer from neck pain are not limited in their activities, one in 10 Canadians do experience some limitations.3
The following factors can increase the risk for developing neck pain:
|Lifestyle factors||Movement factors||Psychological and social factors|
|Smoking or exposure to environmental tobacco||Physical trauma, such as a car accident or sports injury||Poor psychological|
|Repetitive and precision work||Prolonged sedentary positions|
|Poor work posture|
If the pain persists or worsens, you should seek treatment from a chiropractor or other qualified health professional. There are also steps you can take on your own that may help to reduce the pain and improve function. Follow these tips for living well:
Avoid sitting or standing for too long, as poor posture and sedentary behaviour are key causes of neck pain. Schedule frequent breaks into your day to get up and move. The free app Straighten Up Canada has simple, fast and easy exercises to keep you moving.
Check your work station set up to make sure it is optimized for your musculoskeletal health! In case you missed it, we wrote about office ergonomics in another blog post. Remember to sit with your spine in a neutral position, avoid jutting your chin forward or rounding your shoulders and keep your back muscles engaged.
Many of us hold stress and tension in the muscles surrounding our neck and shoulders, and this may cause pain or discomfort. By integrating relaxation techniques into your day, you can ease the tension, refocus and relieve the pain. Try breathing exercises, gentle stretches, walk at lunch or after dinner, get a massage or sign up for a yoga class.
Quite a bit of research has been conducted into effective treatments for neck pain. The Canadian Chiropractic Guideline Initiative has a number of valuable resources for patients suffering from neck pain. You may be surprised to learn, for instance, that neck collars are no longer recommended for whiplash patients because they are not effective. The number one recommendation is to return to normal levels of activity as soon as possible, consider reading self-management materials and introduce daily at-home exercises as directed by your chiropractor to your routine.
Anti-inflammatory medication can also be beneficial in the short-term, as well as manual therapy, including chiropractic, and acupuncture. Specifically, joint dysfunction of your cervical spine can limit your ability to move and also result in pain. Visit your chiropractor for a comprehensive assessment to help you address these issues.
1. Michael Tjepkema, “Repetitive Stress Injury,” Statistics Canada, Health Reports, Volume 14. No. 4.
2. Robin McGee, “Fit for Work? Musculoskeletal Disorders and the Canadian Labour Market,” The Work Foundation, May 2009.
3. Statistics Canada, 2014. Health Trends. Statistics Canada Catalogue No. 82-213-XWE. Ottawa. Released June 12, 2014.