It's alarming but true that some common, everyday actions can be bad for your neck—especially if they're done frequently.
Watch: Video: The 3 Worst Things You Can Do To Your Neck
Working to break these common habits can do a world of good for your neck health, preventing pain and stiffness.
If you’re currently living with neck pain, consider whether these harmful habits sound familiar, then work to break them:
1. Looking down
Whether you're angling your head forward while driving, tilting your head down to view your laptop screen, or using your smartphone throughout the day, you’re actually putting a great deal of pressure on your neck. These actions may seem small, but the frequency with which we engage in them adds up. This can amount to damage for your neck over time.
Constantly tilting your neck forward can lead to a range of problems including ongoing neck pain and soreness, upper back muscle spasms, even premature degeneration in the spinal joints, leading to arthritis. This phenomenon is referred to as text neck overuse syndrome, or simply ‘text neck’ for short.
Your likelihood of developing text neck can be reduced by spending less time in a posture with your head angled down:
- Hold you smartphone higher to decrease the angle of your neck.
- When using your smartphone or laptop, take frequent breaks to lift your head up and stretch your neck.
- If you have a job where you have to be on a computer for long periods of time, setting up your desk or workstation ergonomically can reduce impact on your back and neck.
2. Smoking (or using any form of nicotine)
The many reasons not to smoke are well publicized. What you may not know, though, is smoking can aggravate degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine (neck).
Smoking has been shown to increase the risk for degenerative disc disease, and experts believe this is because nicotine causes the blood vessels that surround the spinal discs to constrict, cutting off needed nutrients to the discs. Nicotine also seems to slow down the growth rate of disc cells.
Quitting smoking is not easy, but it's important for the sake of your health in many ways, including spinal health.
3. Sleeping on your stomach
Your sleep position can have a great deal of bearing on the health of your neck. Sleeping on your stomach places the most stress on your neck, as this position will usually require you to turn your neck and head sharply to the side, and may place your neck at an awkward angle. This is especially true if you use a firm pillow.
If at all possible, it is better to sleep on your side or your back. If you must sleep on your stomach, using a flat pillow (or simply no pillow) can help your neck and back remain in a better position.