Do you remember sitting in front of your laptop for hours without realizing your head is way too far forward or browsing on your phone with your neck bent and this eventually results in getting stiffness in your neck with a mild headache?
We all have experienced neck stiffness and neck pain once in a while. Neck pain can also accompany by a headache, TMJ pain, shoulder pain or pain radiating in arms. A headache which is coming from your neck is known as a cervicogenic headache. The roots of the upper 3 cervical spinal nerves (located at C1, C2, and C3) share a pain nucleus (which routes pain signals to the brain) with the trigeminal nerve. Because of the shared nerve tracts, pain is misunderstood and thus “felt” by the brain as being located in the head. This headache sometimes can be misdiagnosed as a migraine or cluster headaches.
By far the most common cause of neck pain is poor posture, which can lead to soft tissue or muscle strain in the neck area. The most common muscle that gets involved with this strain is levator scapulae muscle which is located in your back and side of the neck. This muscle connects your shoulder (scapula) and your cervical spine (first four vertebrae).
Levator scapulae can be strained due to, sleeping with the neck in an awkward position or holding the neck in abnormal position for long periods. Sports or motor vehicle injury where getting the sudden impact that pushes the head to the side or repeated activity which involves turning head side to side can also cause levator scapulae strain. Many times, experiencing excessive stress or anxiety can lead to tension in the neck.
Neck pain and related headaches can be prevented by having good postural awareness. Supporting your lower back with a rolled pillow while sitting corrects lumber and cervical (neck) curvature. Always keeping your screen or your book at your eye level helps to prevent any extra strain while bending your neck. Moving neck in all different directions and stretching every couple of hours prevents it from getting stiff. Squeezing shoulder blades together and keeping ears in line with your shoulders prevents it from getting forward head posture.