Tips to Help Prevent Neck Pain

Sports Woman's legs in running movement

Posture and body mechanics refer to how your bones and muscles align when you’re sitting, standing, sleeping, or moving around. Poor posture—such as slumped shoulders, a forward head, and a rounded back—can strain your neck muscles and joints. So too can poor body mechanics. If you do things like sit in front of a computer, lift your child, or reach for an item with poor body mechanics, you can strain your neck.

But good posture and good body mechanics can help prevent neck pain. Here are some tips for how to sit, stand, move around, and even sleep that may help protect your neck.

When you sleep:

  • Use a pillow that supports your neck but does not overextend it in any direction.
  • Try to sleep in a position that keeps your spine aligned.

When you sit:

  • Sit in a firm chair with armrests and good back support.
  • Sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor and your knees slightly lower than your hips.
  • Roll a small towel and place it behind your low back for support.
  • Don’t sit for long periods. Stand up at least every 45 minutes to stretch and move your body. Walk for a few minutes if you can.

When you stand:

  • Stand up straight with your weight on both feet, knees soft (not locked), shoulders rolled back and down, chin tucked, and head back so that your ears are in line with your shoulders.
  • Keep your deep stomach muscles slightly contracted to hold your spine in a somewhat curved position (called neutral spine).
  • Don’t wear high heels.
  • Don’t stand for long periods. Sit down briefly at least every 45 minutes to let your neck and back relax.

 

When you lift:

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Squat down, keep your back in the neutral spine position with a slight arch, and lift with your legs.
  • Tighten your stomach muscles while you lift to hold the neutral spine position.
  • Hold the object you’re lifting close to your body.
  • Do not lift and twist at the same time. Lift, stand, and pivot where you need to go.

When you drive:

  • Stop for driving breaks regularly. Get out of the car and move around.
  • Move the seat so you can easily reach the wheel and pedals without straining.
  • Shift position in the seat periodically.
  • Use a towel roll or lumbar support cushion to support your low back.

When you do daily activities:

  • Avoid carrying heavy bags, purses, or backpacks on one shoulder.
  • Use your whole body to push, pull, and move items—not just your arms.
  • Avoid reading in bed. If you do, lean your back against a wall or headboard, rather than propping your head up on pillows.
  • Take frequent breaks from activities (like using a smartphone) that require you to look down and focus.
  • Adjust your workstation so your computer screen is at eye level and you can sit with good posture. Take breaks often.
  • Sit close to your work so you don’t have to lean forward or twist to reach it.
  • Use a headset when you talk on the phone.

If a specific activity or movement causes you neck pain, take a closer look at what you’re doing. Watch yourself or have someone else watch you do the movement. Are your ears and shoulders in line? Is your head tilted or straight? Are you using your arms instead of your whole body? Find out what you’re doing that causes the pain and then modify how you do it.

Try to maintain good posture and body mechanics in everything you do. It can help prevent and reduce neck pain over the long-term.