There’s a reason why “That’s a pain in the neck!” is a common phrase: Neck pain is not an unusual problem. With the many hours we spend hunched over computers in this day and age, the poor posture that frequently causes neck pain is a national health issue. According to the American Osteopathic Association, more than a quarter of Americans report being affected by neck pain.

How Does Poor Posture Cause Neck Pain?

Neck pain often worsens over time. This is because the negative effects of poor biomechanics and posture accumulate in your muscles, leading to fatigue and increasing pain. These symptoms can also be worsened by arthritis or degenerative disc disease. When you spend the day leaning over a workbench, computer, or cell phone, the strain on the muscles in your neck and spine will contribute to neck pain.

Because of its location, the health of the neck is subject to the curvature of the spine below and the position of the head above. If your posture is even slightly off, the neck is very easily moved out of alignment.  A common condition that leads to neck pain is forward head posture, which is when the neck slants forward, placing the head in front of the shoulders. This position can add up to thirty pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine and can lead to breathing difficulties as well as back and neck problems.

How to Improve Poor Posture and Neck Pain

Reversing poor posture is not always a quick and easy process, but it’s important to find long-term solutions for neck pain caused by poor posture. Here are a few ways to help you along the way and hopefully ease the pain:

  • Make Ergonomic Adjustments: By adjusting the angles at which you interact with technology, you can improve your posture. Try to position your computer monitor at eye level for easy viewing. Instead of leaning over your phone, use the hands-free setting or wear a headset. When looking at your phone or tablet, prop it up on a pillow or keep it closer to eye level.
  • Change Positions: Avoid keeping your neck in the same position for a long period of time. Take frequent breaks to stand up or walk around in order to ensure you move your neck and spine.
  • Get Some Sleep: According to a Harvard study, lack of sleep can play a large role in musculoskeletal pain. Make sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. You can also try a different sleeping position to treat neck pain.
  • Apply Heat or Cold: For temporary relief from neck pain, apply a heating pad or cool compress to your neck for about 10-20 minutes at a time. Use a towel or a cloth on your skin to avoid direct contact.
  • Stretch: Try stretching your neck. Gently tilt your head from left to right, holding for 20 seconds on each side. Perform all neck stretches in slow, smooth movements to avoid any further strain.

When your posture is bad for an extended period of time, your body begins to adapt to these poor habits, resulting in misalignment and chronic pain. However, by restoring proper neck and spine alignment, you can counteract damage and prevent future risks. You can improve your alignment with ActivAided, a posture training device that works to correct both posture and biomechanics to provide lasting relief from pain.