01 MAY 2022

Nix Your Neck Pain at NorthBay

How to improve “tech neck” and other factors that cause neck pain.

Americans spend an average seven hours on their mobile phones and computers a day, according to Comparitech 2022, a pro-consumer website. All this time looking at screens can lead to pain or tightness in your neck sometimes called "tech neck" from prolonged viewing of screens below eye level.

Maybe you take a Tylenol or sum it up to a bad night’s sleep. But if you have persistent pain or discomfort, it may be time to visit your doctor. You just might be surprised.

Common causes of neck pain

According to NorthBay Healthcare neurosurgeon Patrick Maloney, M.D., some common causes of neck pain include:

  • Arthritis
  • Poor posture
  • Smoking
  • Bad ergonomics
  • Injury or trauma
  • Other conditions such as diabetes or obesity

Improper posture adds tension and compression to areas in the body that weren’t mean to bear that weight. These stresses and strains build over time and can wear down bones, joints and ligaments, said Dr. Maloney. 

Sometimes the cause can be more obscure. Speech pathologist Scott Jackson works with patients who have jaw tension and temporomandibular joint dysfunction, aka TMJ, which he has found can be a huge contributing factor to neck pain.

“The jaw is directly related to the neck. Stand in front of a mirror and clench your jaw; you will see the muscles in your neck tighten,” said Scott. “Jaw clenching leads to consistent tightness in your neck, along with the other symptoms of TMJ, such as headaches and jaw pain.”

For these patients, Scott relieves tension in the jaw through deep pressure massages in the mouth and around the temples.

Looking for at-home relief? Here are some tips:

  • Adjust ergonomics. Both Dr. Maloney and Scott emphasize that looking down at your phone or laptop is a primary cause of neck pain. Be sure to prop up your phone or laptop and position your work monitor in a spot where you can look straight ahead.
  • Avoid posture faux-pas. Be sure to sit in a straight and neutral position, with your spine aligned and straight.
  • Exercise your neck. Stretch your neck by turning your head over each shoulder. Bring your ear to your shoulder on one side, then switch. Try shoulder rolls, where you roll your shoulders in both directions, avoiding tightening your neck.
  • Put a cork in it. For patients who have neck and jaw pain, Scott recommends taking a wine cork and gently holding it in between your two front teeth for 10 minutes every day while you sit to keep you from clenching your jaw.
  • Massage your tight spots. You can use a lacrosse ball/another hard ball-like object to self-massage tight spots. Scott notes that the place where the neck meets the shoulder is a common problem area, and deep massages and pressure can help alleviate some of that tension.

Both Dr. Maloney and Scott encourage you to see your doctor if your neck pain is consistent, doesn’t get better with rest and/or prevents you from sleeping.

Dr. Maloney added to look out for these other red flags that could signal something neurological:

  • Muscle weakness in your limbs
  • Tingling in your neck, shoulder and other limbs
  • Numbness near the affected area or in the arms and legs

“Don’t ignore pain that isn’t going away or is getting worse. Make an appointment with your physician, especially if you have any of these red flags. We are capable and ready to treat neck pain here at NorthBay,” added Dr. Maloney.

Consult a NorthBay Primary Care doctor to diagnose and heal your neck pain today by calling (707) 646-5500.

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