3 Ways You're Hurting Your Neck Right Now

September 8th 2016

Laura Donovan

Life is a real pain in the neck right now for millions of Americans.

More people are seeking chiropractic services, and one in four people sought professional help for neck or back pain in 2015, according to a recent Gallup poll commissioned by Palmer College of Chiropractic.

"Low-back pain and neck pain place a tremendous burden on our society," Christine Goertz, the vice chancellor for research and health policy at Palmer College of Chiropractic, said in a statement.

It's natural to wonder what causes these pains in the first place. If you suffer from neck issues, here are some everyday habits that could be putting a strain on your upper body.

1. Sleeping with a pillow that doesn't support your neck.

Good pillows don't just help you sleep more comfortably. They're also useful for your neck, according to the University of Utah health library:

"Depending on your sleeping position, additional pillows can help keep your spine in the proper position. The pillow for your head should support the natural curve of your neck and be comfortable.

"A pillow that's too high can put your neck into a position that causes muscle strain on your back, neck, and shoulders.

"Choose a pillow that will keep the neck aligned with the chest and lower back. Your pillow should be adjustable to allow you to sleep in different positions. Replace your pillows every year or so."

2. Leaning over when you text.

"Text neck" is what you get when you incline your head to look down at your cell phone, according to a study two years ago in the National Library of Medicine. The study warned of the health consequences of "text neck."

Text neck can add up to 60 pounds of strain on the neck, study researcher and spinal surgeon Kenneth Hansraj said at the time. He recommended texting with your head elevated so you don't crouch over your phone and hurt yourself in the process.

"I love technology," Hansraj told The Washington Post in 2014. "I'm not bashing technology in any way. My message is: Just be cognizant of where your head is in space. Continue to enjoy your smartphones, and continue to enjoy this technology — just make sure your head is up."

3. Leaning over your computer.

Leaning over your laptop for long stretches of time can similarly be hard on your neck.

"If you bend forward, it places a huge load on the neck, shoulders, arms, and back,” chiropractor Tim Hutchful told the Daily Express in 2010. "The average weight of a human head is between eight and 10 pounds, and you don't have to bend over a laptop for very long to begin placing strain on the muscles by overloading them."

"Compared with standing up, there is twice as much load," Hutchful added. "It might feel comfortable at first, but over time it causes problems, because the spine is designed to be upright. Using a laptop almost forces you into bad posture by making the spine C-shaped.”

Some people try to prevent such laptop-related neck pains by using computer stands so they aren't hunched over: