Do you feel the pulling sensation at the back of the head, travelling down to the neck? You feel like cracking your neck to relieve the pulling sensation but it keeps coming back?
Do you also find it difficult to rest your head and neck comfortably on the pillow at night?
Those pulling sensation can be received as pain if worsen. Neck pain is a signal sent by the tension receptor on the neck muscles to you so that you can be aware of the overused and hyperactive neck and shoulder muscles.
These conditions are often caused by improper sitting, standing and sleeping posture.
If you have been getting consistent neck pain, you might want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you face the digital screen for more than 2 hours per day?
- Do you exercise less than 3 times a week?
- Do you have irregular sleeping hours?
If you answer "Yes" to 2 out of the three questions, you have what we called muscle imbalance syndrome.
Muscle imbalance simply means that one side of the muscles is pulling harder than the other side of the muscles.
In the case of neck pain, the muscles above the shoulder are pulling harder than the muscles below the shoulder, which resulted in overactive and tight neck muscles and often give pain as a signal.
The cause of this muscle imbalance is the weak and underactive muscles that pull the shoulder down, those are in the middle of the back.
These muscles are relatively bigger muscles than the muscles above the shoulder and are often shut off if you have been physically inactive for more than 30 minutes.
Yes, just like how the screen saver or battery saver mode of digital gadgets get turned on after a while to save battery.
Our body does the same thing to conserve energy so that we would survive long enough to get our job done.
When the “energy saving mode” of our body is turned on, we hunch. Simply because the muscles that pull the shoulder down, are the same muscles to keep our back straight. When these muscles are shut off, we just cannot sit straight.
We are too sedentary
We have to first admit that sitting is never meant to be hours long. The human muscles and skeletons are designed to walk, or run but not built for sitting for long hours.
However, the modern lifestyle has made us sit for as long as 10 hours a day. Let us count the time we spent sitting in a day.
Breakfast + Lunch + Dinner: 1.5 hours
Working in front of a computer/smartphone：8 hours
Driving/on the road: 2 hours
Resting at home: 2 hours
Total 13.5 hours of sitting, do not forget the 8 hours of sleep. We have 2.5 hours left that are not sitting nor lying down, way lesser than what our body is designed for.
If we do not walk or run enough, we will lose muscle elasticity and joint flexibility.
Stress building up on the neck
The weight of the head was equally distributed along the whole spine when we sit straight. This is what the spine is designed to do.
However, as the muscles below the shoulder get deactivated, the weight of the head is now building upon the neck spine.
Just like any muscle, the neck muscles get tired after a while of weight-bearing. Imagine the hand soreness you get from grocery shopping, they are the same muscle fatigue.
The difference is that the hand gets its rightful rest after the shopping. The neck muscles continue to work for another 8 hours until your work in front of the computer is finished.
That long hours of muscle engagement will no doubt result in fatigue and pain. This is not some kind of disease or cancer, it is just muscle fatigue.
Check out how to prevent neck muscle fatigue and pain here.