Everyday life isn’t kind to the neck. You may be all too familiar with that crick you get when you cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear, or the strain you feel after working at your computer. Neck pain rarely starts overnight. It usually evolves over time. And it may be spurred by arthritis or degenerative disk disease and accentuated by poor posture, declining muscle strength, stress, and even a lack of sleep, says Dr. Zacharia Isaac, medical director of the Comprehensive Spine Care Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and director of interventional physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.
The following six tips can help you take care of your neck.
Don’t stay in one position for too long. It’s hard to reverse bad posture, Dr. Isaac says, but if you get up and move around often enough, you’ll avoid getting your neck stuck in an unhealthy position.
Make some ergonomic adjustments. Position your computer monitor at eye level so you can see it easily. Use the hands-free function on your phone or wear a headset. Prop your touch-screen tablet on a pillow so that it sits at a 45° angle, instead of lying flat on your lap.
If you wear glasses, keep your prescription up to date. “When your eyewear prescription is not up to date, you tend to lean your head back to see better,” Dr. Isaac says.
Don’t use too many pillows. Sleeping with several pillows under your head can stifle your neck’s range of motion.
Know your limits. Before you move a big armoire across the room, consider what it might do to your neck and back, and ask for help.
Get a good night’s sleep. Sleep problems increase the risk for several different conditions, including musculoskeletal pain.
Generally, neck pain is nothing to worry about. But if it’s occurring with other, more serious symptoms, such as radiating pain, weakness, or numbness of an arm or leg, make sure to see your doctor. “Other key things that might make one more concerned are having a fever or weight loss associated with your neck pain, or severe pain.
4 ways to put off joint replacement
A desire to stay active and a natural aversion to pain send nearly 800,000 Americans to orthopedic surgeons each year for a hip or knee replacement. And we’re seeking these operations much earlier in life. According to Dr. Scott Martin, associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, this isn’t a healthy trend. “A lot of joint replacements are being done because they can be,” says Dr. Martin.
Every surgical procedure carries the risk of complications — or even death. Because the average joint that’s replaced only lasts 10 to 15 years, having the procedure done at age 50 instead of 70 means there’s a good chance you’ll need a second procedure when you’re older and at higher risk for complications.
Here are four tips that can help you extend the life of your natural joints and keep the need for replacement in the very distant future.
Tip #1: Lose weight
One of the most important ways to care for your joints is to stay at a healthy weight. For every extra pound you carry, you put about three pounds of additional pressure on your knees and multiply the pressure on your hips by six. If you have arthritis, losing just 15 pounds can cut your knee pain in half. If you do eventually need a joint replaced, losing weight beforehand can reduce your risk of having complications from surgery. Even if you have tender joints, you can still work out — as long as you stick with exercises that are gentle on your joints, such as swimming, walking, or riding a stationary bike.
Tip #2: Take care when using your joints
Poor posture and using the wrong techniques during your daily activities add more stress to damaged joints. By standing up straight instead of slouching, you can protect the joints in your neck, hips, and knees. Also use the proper technique when lifting or carrying anything heavy. If any activity hurts, stop doing it right away.
Tip #3: Try nonsurgical approaches before turning to surgery
There are a number of ways to tackle joint pain other than replacing the joint itself. Treatment with steroids is one approach. Benefits can last anywhere from four to six months. However, this doesn’t work for everyone. Viscosupplementation involves injecting a lubricating fluid into damaged knee joints to treat osteoarthritis. Studies show this therapy doesn’t work any better than steroid injections. Yet it is another alternative for pain relief and mobility if other treatments haven’t worked or you can’t tolerate them.
Tip #4: Get pain relief
Instead of heading straight to your doctor to treat sore joints, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) — or the prescription medicine celecoxib (Celebrex) can relieve both joint inflammation and pain. Do talk with your doctor before deciding to use an over-the-counter NSAID. These drugs can cause side effects such as stomach upset, bleeding, and kidney and liver damage. Take them for the shortest possible time to relieve your discomfort. There is also some evidence that the dietary supplement glucosamine chondroitin can lead to subtle improvements in arthritis pain. “It doesn’t rebuild joints, but it does seem to help with the pain,” Dr. Martin says.
When to consider surgery
If you can’t escape from joint pain even while at rest, your pain is only relieved by narcotic medications, or your function is severely compromised, it’s time to consider a joint replacement. “I would stick with your own joint if you can, but if it’s physically, mentally, and emotionally wearing you down, then it’s time to go and have it done,” Dr. Martin says.
Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren
1 Chronicles 16:11 Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Psalm 32:7-8 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
Exodus 33:14 My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.
Deuteronomy 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.
Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Psalm 34:17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.
Isaiah 30:15 In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.
Isaiah 43:1-3 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Luke 12:25-26 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[a]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
Philippians 4:6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Psalm 34:4 I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.
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