The Southeastern Spine Institute

Take care of your neck to avoid back pain or even spinal surgery.

Back pain affects most people at some point in their lives, with lower back pain the most common. Fortunately, most back pain doesn’t require spinal surgery. While surgery may be the treatment of last resort, most often, back pain responds to more conservative methods such as exercise, diet, rest, manipulation and pain relievers.

One of the most difficult aspects of treating your back is finding the source of your pain. Because your spine is attached to every other part of your body, an injury in one place may result in pain arising in a completely different place.

A Pain in the Neck

Injuries that can create pain and lead to the potential need for spinal surgery can include:

  • Strain due to repetitive motion at work or while participating in sports
  • Poor posture
  • Improper lifting techniques
  • Sudden ligament pull when moving awkwardly
  • Over-stretching

Neck pain can come on suddenly or develop slowly over time. And while it may manifest in your lower back, the pain actually may originate in your neck. If you consider the work your neck performs every day — holding up your head, twisting and turning — it’s no wonder it’s a common source of back pain. If you…

  • Sleep wrong
  • Look at a computer screen too long
  • Get stressed out

…you could develop serious neck pain. Neck pain often dissipates within a couple days, but if you continue the harmful practices or unhealthy lifestyles that led to the pain, there could be spinal surgery in your future.

Use Your Head

Take these common-sense steps to prevent neck pain and spinal surgery:

  • Look up from the computer every 15 minutes or so.
  • Practice proper posture when sitting, standing and driving.
  • Get a new pillow if you awaken with neck pain every morning.
  • Meditate or do yoga if you get easily stressed out.
  • Treat minor aches with anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.

Certain exercises, like the chin tuck and the back burn, help strengthen the ligaments and muscles that support your neck and shoulders. Performed regularly, they’ll help you withstand the rigors placed on your neck each and every day.

Chin Tuck

You can perform this effective exercise throughout the day to combat neck pain.

  1. Stand with your back against a wall with your feet about three inches out.
  2. Keep your arms straight down at your sides.
  3. Pull your chin in and push against the wall so that your upper back is pressed flat against the wall.
  4. Hold for five seconds and release.
  5. Repeat 10 times.

Once you get the hang of the chin tuck, do it while sitting or standing anywhere — even without the wall.

Back Burn

In addition to strengthening your neck, the back burn works to bolster your shoulder muscles, which play a big role in preventing neck pain that can lead to spinal surgery.

  1. Stand with your back against a wall with your feet about four inches out.
  2. Stretch your arms straight out in front of you, with your palms out and your fingers splayed.
  3. Press your head against the wall and slowly raise your arms above your head.
  4. Just as slowly, lower your arms so they are resting at your sides.
  5. Repeat 10 times.