Neck pain is on the rise across the world, and by some counts, it’s the fourth leading cause of disability in the world. Some experts suggest that the rate will continue to increase.
Poor posture is an easy scapegoat, but it’s much more than that. Modern lifestyle conditions and choices may boost the risk for future debilitating neck pain.
What kind of lifestyle conditions? A multitude. Work conditions and leisure time have increased neck strain as many stay hunched over computer screens, tablets, or smartphones for hours per day.
New research wanted to look at the various factors leading to increased instances of neck pain. They knew posture would have a crucial role, but they also wanted to examine lifestyle factors, including gender, weight, and work-related neck stressors.
A research team from Texas A&M University recruited 20 men and 20 women with no previous neck pain to undergo a series of experiments. Using various technologies, they mimicked workplace neck stress with controlled head and neck exertions until participants were too tired to continue.
As expected, they found that work-related factors played a role in neck strength and endurance. They also noted that gender played no role, yet body mass index (BMI) did.
They also found that time of day affected neck endurance, regardless of whether a person worked a day or night shift.
The results were published in Human Factors.
Neck pain might not be entirely preventable, as it is likely cumulative, but you can take steps to minimize or delay a long-term condition.
One quick place to start is to bring screens to your face. When looking at a smartphone or tablet, bring it up to the eyes instead of bending your neck downwards. When looking at a computer screen, adjust it so that it is at roughly eye level.
Take breaks from screens as well, and stretch your neck front to back and side to side.
Maintaining a healthy body weight may help too. Getting regular activity and exercise, particularly with the neck in a prone position, may help reduce future neck pain and encourage neck strength.