Here are some tips on posture and a few helpful exercises to maintain your neck and back health at home.
Your posture has more to do with a healthy neck than you may realize. Your head is a considerable weight that can pull your neck out of alignment, stressing its pain-sensitive structures and resulting in muscle fatigue, neck aches, and muscle tension headaches. To prevent these problems, try using good posture throughout the day. By keeping your neck in its normal, balanced alignment, you can help keep your neck healthy and pain free. Here are some Doís and Doníts for good posture to stay healthy and pain-free.
DO: Sitting is the most stressful activity for your neck. Try to sit with your feet flat on the floor, or on a low footstool, so that your knees are slight≠ly higher than your hips. Sit firmly against the back of your chair with your lower back supported.
DONíT: Sitting in a chair that is too high or too low can cause you to strain forward or slouch. Sitting in one place for too long. Sitting for long periods of time can put extra strain on your neck.
DO: Try to sit firmly against the back of the car seat. You can use a small cushion or a rolled-up towel to support your lower back, and it's important to have head sup≠port, as well. Move your seat forward to keep your knees higher than your hips.
DONíT: Slouching back in the car seat, straining to reach the pedals, or bending forward to reach the steering wheel. You should be able to use the pedals with just your feet-not your legs, hips, or back.
DO: Stand "tall" with your head level. If you're standing still for long periods of time, put one foot on a low (4-6 inches) stool to help keep pressure off your spine. Bend your knees with a straight back to lower yourself, rather than bending over.
DONíT: Wearing high heels if you'll be on your feet for long periods of time. Bending over an ironing board or sink; this can put added stress not only on your neck, but on your whole spine.
DO: Sleeping on a firm mattress is one of your best bets for pre≠venting future neck problems. Try to sleep on your side with your knees bent or on your back with a pillow under your knees. Keep your head as level as possible while you sleep.
DONíT: Sleeping on soft mattresses or sagging sofas, and using only one pillow. Watching TV or reading in bed with your neck supported only by pillows; this forces your neck into strained, awkward positions.
Your chiropractor may recommend that you do some of the exercises below (or offer you others) to increase flexibility and strengthen your neck muscles. These easy exercises can help you maintain the improvements gained through your adjustments, as well as help prevent future neck problems. Ask your chiropractor how often each exercise should be repeated, and try to relax and breathe naturally as you slowly do these exercises. Before beginning these exercises consult your chiropractor. Discontinue any exercise that causes pain or discomfort and consult your chiropractor.
Forward Stretch: Slowly drop your head forward; hold for 15-30 seconds. The weight of your head stretches your neck muscles.
Forward press - Press your forehead into your palms, resisting any forward motion with your hands. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Backward press - Clasp your hands behind your head and press your head back. Resist any motion with your hands; hold for 15-30 seconds.
Rotation press - Turn your head to one side, resisting any motion with your hand. Switch sides; hold for 15-30 seconds on each side.
Tilt press - Tilt your head to one side, resist≠ing any motion with your hand. Switch sides; hold for 15-30 seconds on each side.
To help you have a healthy neck, nothing beats overall fitness. Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise strengthens your heart and lungs, improves circulation, and is a vital part of your overall health. Swimming, bicycling, brisk walking, and running are all popular, inexpensive ways to exercise.
Try to exercise for at least 20 minutes three to four times a week. If you've been inactive for some time, ask your chiropractor to help you set up your exercise program.