Your neck has a much wider range of motion than the rest of your spine and must also carry a big load: your skull. Because of this, it’s easy to injure or overuse your neck.
Your Neck at It’s Best
A healthy neck has a slight forward curve that’s in balance with the other curves or your spine. This balance distributes your body weight evenly and protects your muscles and ligaments from pulls and strains.
Your neck can move forward and back, tilt from side to side and rotate in both directions, all while supporting your skull.
Strength and Flexibility
Your neck is made up of seven small bones called cervical vertebrae. Flexible but strong, they support your skull and hold your head erect. This column of vertebrae also forms a canal to protect your spinal cord.
Your neck muscles control the movements of your head and tongue. For extra support, several deep muscles of the back and shoulders extend into the neck region.
Regularly exercising the muscles of your neck keeps them strong and flexible. Good posture – your head balanced on top of your neck’s curve – protects the bones and discs from wear and tear.
Nothing’s Too Good for Your Neck
When it comes to back health, your neck is the top of the line. To protect your neck:
1) Keep your posture in balance – whether you’re sitting, standing or lying down.
2) Do exercises for neck strength and flexibility.
3) Use a headrest in your car and wear proper head protection during sports.
Common Causes of Neck Problems
1) Cradling a telephone handset between your head and shoulder – this position is hard on your neck joints and shoulder muscles. Newer telephones with smaller handsets have made the problem worse. Use an operator’s handset, a speakerphone or shoulder rest and switch sides every couple minutes.
2) Propping up your head with pillows to read in bed – bending your neck at an angle causes wear and tear on your vertebrae. Sit up straight with a pillow under your knees to relieve pressure on your lower back.
3) Sleeping with the wrong pillow – your pillow should support your neck without lifting your head at a sharp angle.