7 Secret Reasons for Your Neck Pain

Woke up with a stiff neck? These surprising factors may be responsible.

by Alexis Aceves Garcia

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You’re a textaholic
Bad posture is one of the leading causes of neck pain. The more time you spend with your head pulled forward or down—the very position your neck takes when you’re glued to your phone—means more work for the vertebrae of the lower neck. This also stresses the muscles of the upper back as they balance out the movement of your head. Try to keep your phone as close to eye level as possible to avoid this neck strain. The same goes for desk jockeys: When sitting at your desk, look straight ahead. Your eyes should stare at the top of your computer screen. If you need more leverage, use a few hardcover books to make your screen sit higher than you.

You’re super stressed
Stress is a pain in the neck. “As stress goes up I definitely see more patients with neck pain. Every year around tax time the number of patients with neck pain increases, especially among Wall Street types here in New York,” Robert Gotlin, DO, director of orthopedic and sports rehab at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, told Muscle tension is one of your body’s default reactions to every day stressors. Sharpen your awareness of how stress is affecting you and take measures to relax—for the sake of your neck (if not your sanity). Take up a yoga class or practice meditation. Inhale positivity and exhale stress.

You’re still smoking
If your neck is giving you problems, consider this one more reason (among too many to count) to quit smoking. (Want quitting inspiration? Check out these tricks to stop smoking). Smoking accelerates degenerative disc disease. Chemicals in cigarettes harden your arteries and decrease blood supply to bones and discs, which starves the bones of your neck for nutrients.

You slept funny
To wake up without morning neck pain, you have to keep your neck as neutral as possible at night, physical therapist Bill Hartman, a sports medicine advisor for Men’s Health told the magazine. Avoid sleep positions where your head bends excessively forward, backward, or to the side, advises Hartman. Stomach sleepers are particularly vulnerable to this kind of neck pain because their heads turn to the side by default. If you’re prone to neck pain, Hartman recommends trying to start sleeping on your back, which allows your pillow to support your head and neck. Try a memory foam pillow, which molds to your neck and helps maintain proper alignment with your spine.

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You’re hitting it hard at the gym
According to, neck strain during weight lifting usually occurs toward the end of a set, when you’re determined to pound out a few more reps. Forget “no pain, no gain.” You can easily damage the tissue around your neck ligaments and cause a muscle spasm. Stretching your shoulder blades before a workout can help ease the tension on your upper back, but the best advice is to listen to your body, and rest when you need to.

You pack your life in your purse
Most women don’t realize the toll their filled-to-the-brim purses have on shoulder and neck muscles. “I have actually weighed ladies’ purses before to show them how much weight they’re carrying,” Robert A. Hayden, a chiropractor and founder of the Iris City Chiropractic Center in Atlanta, told The body adapts to the extra weight by compromising its natural step. The arm supporting your bag isn’t moving naturally, which means the other arm is swinging more to compensate. This imbalance can strain your neck and back. For a more symmetrical walk, Dr. Hayden recommends trying bags with wider straps and alternating which shoulder carries the weight to keep your body balanced.

You’re a serial gum chewer
While blowing bubbles might relieve stress, constant strenuous jaw movement can lead to neck pain and headaches. Gum chewing causes stress to the area where the jaw meets the skull and can strain the muscles in your head and neck. If you intend to continue your habit, alternate which side of mouth is doing the chewing. Like any other muscle, your jaw requires an even workout.

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