Most of the people reading this column will experience neck stiffness from time to time. As more people now work from home and are likely to use less ergonomic workstations (or a laptop on the sofa), more and more patients with neck problems are coming to our practice.
Neck problems have been more common for several decades. As more people use mobile devices such as cell phones and spend more time in front of computers and other screens, neck problems increase. The neck is a complex system made up of a multitude of joints and muscles. To stay healthy and supple, the neck needs to be moved frequently.
That is the problem. Our new habits lead to less exercise than ever. Because we are focused on the work in front of us on our screen, our heads remain immobile for hours.
Every day we see patients with complaints of neck pain. Many patients have had recurring neck pain for years. However, we have more patients who say that their neck pain has gotten worse in the past few months. This often seems to be related to our changing habits regarding our devices.
In our practice, we offer treatments that range from hands-on treatments to improve spinal function, painless and comfortable medical acupuncture, to high-end pain therapy technologies that can often eliminate pain quickly. In addition to the treatments we offer patients, I often ask them to do some very specific activities at home that are helpful.
There are a number of specific exercise and stretching activities that we recommend for people at home. It is important to be clear about which activities should be done and which should be avoided under certain conditions. For example, for people with neck pain and stiffness, we often recommend some very specific neck movements.
The most common home activity we recommend for neck pain and stiffness is an exercise I “Dr. Kestner yes yes no no exercise ”. This is not a typo. “Yes yes no no” is actually the name of the exercise. It is also a very detailed description of the exercise.
The activity is very simple. I advise patients not to do this while standing. To start, just sit in a comfortable chair. Sit with your head forward in a relaxed position. Slowly tilt your head back as far as possible. Then slowly tilt your head forward as far as is comfortable for you. Repeat this maneuver several times. This is the yes-yes part of the exercise. Notice that you are moving your head as if you were saying yes.
Now, if you guessed that the next part of the exercise is to slowly turn your head from side to side as if saying no, you are right. Just turn your head from side to side and rotate as far as you can and slowly. Repeat this step several times. Now you’ve done the yes-yes and no-no parts of the exercise.
Now is the time to add the next move. While still sitting in a comfortable position, simply pull both shoulders towards your ears as if to say, “I don’t know.” Repeat this movement several times as well.
It’s a good idea to repeat this routine several times a day. Over time, you will notice less pain and more freedom of movement in your neck.
It is important to be in a comfortable position and to perform the movements slowly and deliberately. Don’t go past the point where you start to feel uncomfortable. It is also important not to roll your head from side to side or back and forth. Stick to the up and down and side to side movements.
If you experience discomfort or pain while doing these movements, it is important that you stop and see a doctor. These activities are intended for people who are otherwise healthy but have simple neck tension. If you have an existing medical condition that may be affected by these exercises, you should see your doctor before trying.
Neck pain can result from a variety of medical conditions and should always be evaluated by an appropriate doctor.
When we see a patient with neck pain, we consider many aspects of their health. Each patient is treated according to their individual condition. Some patients may receive certain treatments while other patients may be treated differently.
For example, a healthy athlete in their 20s with a stiff neck will be treated very differently than a 70-year-old with a damaged disc or severe arthritis. Our wide range of effective treatments can be used safely, comfortably and appropriately for each individual patient.
Neck pain shouldn’t be ignored. Proper evaluation and treatment can safely and effectively address the problem.
Dr. Mark Kestner is a licensed chiropractor and acupuncturist with more than 30 years of experience primarily focused on the treatment of complex and chronic spinal, joint and neurological conditions in Murfreesboro. His office is at 1435 NW Broad St. Contact him at [email protected]