It really helps to hear the latest ways that have shown to be the best ways to prevent neck pain. We know that to keep up your overall health we need to eat right, exercise, manage our stress, get proper rest, get our spines checked periodically. In other words, if you do these things, you are doing good. But here's a couple items more specific for the neck.
- Exercises to strengthen the neck -
1. Head Retractions - pretend your head is on a track and slide it backwards. Gently translate the head posterior. Don't extend or flex the head and neck, simply glide it back. A good way to do this at first is to stand in front of a mirror and use your index finger as a guide.
2. ROM (Ranges of Motion - the directional ranges are: flexion, extension, right lateral flexion, left lateral flexion, right rotation, and left rotation. Basically, move the head into these directions and repeat. Do about ten repetitions in each direction. Use your hand to push against so you have some resistance.
- Stretches for the neck
1. Lateral Head Stretch - Simply laterally flex (tilt the head towards one ear). Hold for ten to fifteen seconds. You can reach up with your arm and hand on that side, pulling the head into slightly more of a stretch.
2. Half Circle Rolls - flex your head forward and roll one ear toward one shoulder, then roll back to the other shoulder.
Extend the head back and roll again to each shoulder. Imagine doing full neck circle except that we do them 1/2 and 1/2. Doing them separate, I find, actually reduces the chances of throwing the neck out of alignment.
- Watch Your Posture - this is a big one. Posture is actually the "window into looking at the spine". Looking at our neck from the side, the ear should be aligned with the front of the shoulder. From the front or back, the neck and head should be straight up and down. *Some tips to see it: -are the shoulders even in height?, - does the bridge of the nose align with the Adam'a apple?...
- Avoid stress - stress doesn't appear to be the actual cause of conditions, however it actually makes everything and anything worse. There have been numerous studies showing the negative effects of stress. There is no doubt it effects ones health. Directly, most people carry much of their tension and stress right across the shoulder
- Your Pillow - last but not least - what you use almost every night! I just talked to someone who uses a feather pillow and feels like she has no support. Well, she's right. Often times, it'll flatten to basically nothing under your neck. That isn't what you want... Your neck wants to have a 40-60 degree curvature. If your pillow is flat, those degrees become 0!
My suggestion is to get a neck pillow you like. My favorite, and the one I use every night is the Arc4Life Cervical Traction Neck Pillow.