We’ve all dealt with neck pain at some point in our lives. Whether it is a mild soreness after sleeping in a bad posture or spending too much time watching the screen without taking frequent breaks, we’ve experienced dull aches and stiffness. Usually, these symptoms are alleviated with heat and ice therapy, rest, and some stretching exercises. However, in some cases, our daily practices lead to long-term pain manifestations. One of these is posture- your daily posture can determine whether you will have any unforeseen episodes of neck and back pain, which if left untreated can seriously affect your range of motion and flexibility. 

What Is a Good Posture?

When we say good posture with regards to the neck we usually mean that the head is in a neutral position with the ears directly aligned, with the shoulders pulled back and relaxed. With this posture, your neck has to handle minimal pressure, and the weight of the head is naturally balanced. 

What Is Bad Posture? How Does It Worsen Neck Pain?

It is said you have bad posture when the head is bent forward and is placed in front of the shoulder rather than above. This can cause your neck to slant forward, placing the head in front and thus adding more stress to the spine which then snowballs into multiple health problems that interfere with your daily functionality. Many treatment options- be it exercise or physiotherapy for neck pain – mostly stress on postural correction because posture has a major effect on your body.

Let us examine the effects of bad posture: 

Added Spinal Pressure

The forward position of the head in a poor posture increases the amount of weight on the cervical spine. With every inch of the head being held forward, an additional 2 kgs of weight is felt by the spine. Normally the head weighs around 2 to 3.5 kgs, so every inch of the head moving forward can add 2 kgs which can significantly increase the load. 

Muscle Overdrive

Due to this added weight, the muscles in the neck and the thoracic region continue to overwork to help hold the head in position and to counteract the force of gravity caused by the pull of the forward motion. Because of this overwork, muscles become more vulnerable to tears and spasms. 

Also Read: Red Flags for Neck Pain

Physical Manifestations

A serious impact of bad posture is a hunched back. To support the back, your shoulder also hunchs forward causing a rounded back. Prolonged periods of holding this pose- being hunched while working or slouched over your couch- can lead to a permanent posture of having a humped back. Keeping a rounded shoulder most of the time can lead to more pain and stiffness in the upper back, neck, and shoulders. 

Extension of the spine

Every time the head is tilted for longer periods of time, the lower cervical spine goes into hyperflexion along with the vertebrate which tilts forward. However, the upper cervical spine goes into hyperextension to keep the head up so that the eyes can look forward. This simultaneous alteration causes the spinal column to lengthen its distance from the base of the skull to the base of the neck, causing unnecessary stretch and pressure on the spinal cord. 

Alignment Gets Affected

Because of hyperflexion and hyperextension, the alignment of the muscles in the neck, upper back, shoulder, and chest can also get affected. They might become tight or shortened and in some cases, stretched, elongated and weak making them more prone to muscle spasms, and muscle tears. 

Reduced Range of Motion

The spinal cord has to withstand longer periods of additional weight and stress causing the muscles in the upper and lower cervical spines to become tight and tense. This causes limitations in our range of motion making it difficult to sleep, rotate and bend our necks. Reading for longer periods of time may also become difficult as you are unable to keep your neck stable without it causing pain. 

Accelerating Spinal Degeneration

Aging is a normal and human process. With time, the cells in our body begin to decay and diminish in quality causing the ailment, wrinkles, and health issues. This affects bone density, flexibility, and muscle quality as well. However, a poor posture can accelerate this aging process by causing arthritis and other degenerative diseases soon. The extra pressure on our spinal cord and vertebrate may invite additional spine issues and make us more vulnerable to fractures and sprains. 

Can Trigger Migraines

If you are someone who suffers from debilitating migraine headaches then a poor posture may worsen your condition. Prolonged periods of having your head in a forward position may trigger some myofascial trigger points, causing painful migraines.

Also Read: When to See a Doctor for Neck Pain

Helpful Tips to Improve Posture

We are all guilty of having hunched shoulders and being in a prolonged slouched position for hours due to work, sometimes even while watching a movie or reading a book. While it is difficult to maintain a perfect posture at all times, here are some tips to help you improve your posture to offset some of the negative effects and consequences of bad posture-  

  • Your computer monitor should be set up so that it is at eye level
  • Try physiotherapy for neck pain as it includes several lifestyle changes and exercises that you can include in your daily routine. It is a non-invasive, drug-free approach that uses exercise, massage therapies, manual therapies and postural correction techniques to help with your neck pain. 
  • Try a chin tuck, or chin nodding exercise frequently. You can do it sitting at your desk, but make sure you are taking frequent breaks from looking at the screen. 
  • Make sure that whenever you sit to work, your head is at a neutral position and is not pointing towards your chest. 
  • Make sure you have a chair that is ergonomic and provides proper lumbar support
  • Change your sitting position throughout the day, do not stay in one position as it may lead to your muscles stiffening up
  • Use an underbite or consult your dentist if you grind your teeth or clench your jaw too often as this may be causing your neck pain. For the normal jaw position, teeth should be parted slightly and the jaw bent forwards.

For more information about physiotherapy for neck pain, tips to improve your posture, and much more, head over to Phyt Health. Phyt Health is India’s first digital physiotherapy platform using 3D Imaging and Artificial Intelligence to accurately capture your movements and recommend relevant treatment plans. On the physiotherapy app, you will find a wealth of exercises that are curated by expert physiotherapists that you can perform in the comfort of your own home.
Book your video consultation today!