Does Lumbar Support Help Neck Pain?
The National Institute of Health estimates that 1 in 3 people report neck pain each year. The causes of this pain are varied. However, neck pain is more common in individuals who are already suffering from back pain. You might wonder, then, "Does lumbar support help neck pain?"
In fact, proper lumbar support is key to reducing neck and back pain. Supporting your lower back promotes proper posture. Proper posture, in turn, reduces strain on your spine and neck.
Neck Pain Symptoms
Of course, pain anywhere in the body is itself a symptom. If you have a pain in the neck, you know it.
However, other symptoms can occur with your pain. These include:
- Muscle tension or spasms
- Decreased range of motion and an inability to turn your head
- Tingling or numbness in the arms
If your neck pain is associated with shooting pains or numbness and tingling in the arms, it's important to see a doctor right away. These symptoms can indicate a more serious condition.
Neck Pain Causes
As you evaluate your symptoms, you may notice that they become worse when you hold your neck in the same position for long periods of time. In fact, many cases of neck pain are related to lifestyle factors, including posture. Addressing neck pain, therefore, usually requires addressing these lifestyle factors.
Many cases of neck pain, especially those caused by lifestyle factors, are considered "non-specific." This means that your doctor cannot identify a specific medical cause for your pain. The most frequent underlying causes of pain in these cases are weak or strained muscles and poor posture.
Other specific causes of neck pain can include:
- Trauma from a car accident or fall
- Osteoarthritis of the cervical spine or cervical spondylosis
- Herniated discs or bone spurs that cause nerve compression
- Diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, and cancer
Can Lumbar Issues Cause Neck Pain?
The network of bones, muscles, and joints that makes up your body is an intricate and interconnected framework. This is especially true when it comes to your neck and spine. Your spine provides a framework for your entire body. Misalignments and strain on your spine contribute to misalignments and strain elsewhere.
If your lumbar region is weak or your posture consistently fails to support this region, back and neck pain can result.
Treating and Preventing Neck Pain
Addressing neck pain requires addressing its underlying causes. It also requires working to prevent neck pain from recurring.
Treating Specific Causes of Neck Pain
If your doctor can identify a specific cause, such as whiplash, osteoarthritis, or a herniated disc, he or she will suggest specific treatments. These may include:
- Heat or ice
- Physical therapy
Treating and Preventing Non-Specific Neck Pain
If the cause of your neck pain is "non-specific," many of these same interventions may help. However, non-specific neck pain often originates in aspects of your lifestyle. These include poor posture and long periods of time sitting at a desk or staring at a screen. Treating these cases, therefore, requires changing aspects of your lifestyle.
Whether you are sitting, standing, or laying down, your posture is one of the most important factors in spine health. Good posture keeps bones and joints aligned. Well-aligned joints experience less stress. Good posture also reduces stress on ligaments and muscles and allows muscles to work effectively.
Unfortunately, many Americans have poor posture. We slouch when we stand. We sit at desks and stare—hunched over—at the computer for a third of our days. We spend much of our free time hunched over screens on our phones. And we sleep in beds and on pillows that don't provide support. It's no wonder that we suffer from neck and back pain.
Fortunately, there are steps we can take in each of these situations to improve our posture and relieve neck pain. Many of these steps focus on providing lumbar support.
How to Stand with Good Posture to Decrease Back and Neck Pain
When you stand, experts recommend allowing the balls of your feet to carry most of your weight. Your feet should be in line with your shoulders, and your knees should be slightly bent. Your arms should hang loosely at your sides.
As you stand in this position, keep your spine straight and pull your shoulders back. As you do, keep your head perpendicular to and directly over your shoulders. Finally, tuck your stomach in.
If you must stand for extended periods, remember to shift your weight from the ball of your foot to your heels. Alternatively, you can shift your weight from one foot to another. As you do, however, remember to maintain the basics of good standing posture.
How to Sit Properly to Decrease Back and Neck Pain with Lumbar Support
When you sit, make sure that your feet touch the floor. If they don't, you can use a footrest for support.
Avoid crossing your legs. Instead, keep both feet planted with your ankles slightly in front of your knees. Also allow your knees to extend slightly from the front of your seat.
While seated, your knees should be level with or just below your knees. Your knees should not slant upward, and you should not hunch forward.
Keep a straight upper back while supporting your lower back's natural curve. If you're using a desk chair with an adjustable back, position it to support your lumbar region. You can also use a back support.
Finally, keep your shoulders relaxed and your lower arms parallel to the floor.
If you must sit for extended periods, remember to take breaks. Stand up and stretch. Walk around your office. Gently stretch and rotate your neck even as you sit.
Also pay attention to the type of seating that you choose. When possible, choose firm seating with a supportive back.
How to Sleep with Good Posture to Decrease Back and Neck Pain
Sleeping on your stomach can aggravate back and neck pain. However, back, side, and stomach sleepers can take steps to improve their sleeping posture.
First, find a supportive mattress. Experts generally recommend a medium-firm mattress as providing the most appropriate back and neck support. However, individual preferences and comfort can vary. It's important, therefore, to try various mattresses and find the best one for you.
Second, choose a pillow or pillows. If you sleep on your back or side, a pillow beneath your head should keep your head, neck, and spine in proper alignment.
If you sleep on your back, you can use an additional pillow for lumbar support to prevent neck pain. You can also experiment with a pillow beneath your knees. If you sleep on your side, a pillow between your knees can keep your legs aligned with your hips.
If you must sleep on your stomach, try sleeping without a pillow or use the flattest pillow you can tolerate.
Modifying Your Work Environment
As you work to improve your posture, it's important to evaluate your body's position when you sit, stand, and sleep. However, we spend many of our waking hours sitting. Studies show that Americans sit for at least 6.5 hours each day. Many of these hours occur at a desk in front of a computer.
Modifying your work environment to support your neck and spine can significantly relieve neck and back pain.
1. Choose a Supportive Chair
Using a chair that provides lumbar support to prevent back pain and neck pain is one of the most important steps you can take. Proper sitting posture includes a straight spine and naturally curved lower back. Ergonomic chairs support this natural curve.
If your chair does not provide adequate lumbar support to prevent back pain, consider using a lumbar support pillow while seated.
When you sit with proper lumbar support, your lower back should touch the chair or cushion behind it.
Finally, even as you focus on improving your posture while seated at the office, consider other settings where you're seated for extended times. For many Americans, this includes the car. Many car seats now include adjustable lumbar support. If yours does not, you can add this lumbar support to prevent neck pain.
2. Adjust Your Desk Setup
Your computer monitor should be directly in front of you at eye-level. If it's not, adjust the monitor or your chair to achieve this alignment.
Also keep your keyboard and mouse within a comfortable reach. While typing or using your mouse, your elbows should remain slightly bent. Keep additional office items that you use regularly close by as well. If you must stretch to reach an item, stand up to get it.
3. Take a Stand
The more we sit, the harder it is to maintain good posture. Standing for at least a portion of your workday can promote proper posture and relieve neck and back pain.
Standing desks are increasingly popular. If these aren't an option for you, consider other ways to incorporate standing and movement into your day.
4. Get Moving
If a standing desk isn't for you—or even if it is, you can incorporate movement into your workday routine in other ways.
Simply remembering to get up and take short breaks to stretch throughout the day can go along way to supporting posture and spine health. If you struggle with remembering to move, set an alarm on your phone.
Also find ways to incorporate movement breaks into your day naturally. Instead of sending an email, take a walk to ask a manager or a colleague a question. Walk around your office while you make business calls. Even small breaks from sitting make a big difference throughout the day.
Using Braces and Other Supportive Devices: Does Lumbar Support Help Neck Pain?
Unless you've experienced whiplash or other trauma related to an accident or other injury, you probably won't include a neck brace among your treatment options. You might, however, benefit from a brace or belt to support your lower back.
Again, the spine and neck—and, in fact, the body's entire framework—are connected. If you're struggling to maintain proper posture while sitting, standing, or sleeping, a lumbar support brace may help.
Lumbar support braces use an ergonomic design to support the natural curve of your lower back. They are adjustable so that you can customize the support and compression to your needs.
With this customized support, you'll be better equipped to maintain a natural posture in any position. You'll also take pressure off your vertebrae, including those in your cervical spine. Finally, you'll provide support for your muscles, which may be weak and tired.
Lumbar support braces can also relieve pressure and pain if your neck pain arises from a herniated disc or osteoarthritis. Decompression belts are specially designed to relieve pressure on the spinal discs while stretching tight lower back muscles.
Many cases of neck and back pain are related to muscle weakness and tension. Gentle stretching exercises and regular physical activity can address these causes.
Yoga is an excellent practice for improving posture, strengthening muscles, and reducing stress. For each of these reasons, it can be an important component of neck pain prevention.
Outside of a structured yoga practice, individual exercises and stretches can promote a full range of motion in your neck. Common stretches that are effective for neck pain include:
- Tilting your head forward until you feel a gentle stretch, holding for 15-30 seconds, and repeating the tilt
- Tilting your head backward until you feel a gentle stretch, holding for 15-30 seconds, and repeating the tilt
- Tilting your head to each side until you feel a gentle stretch, holding for 15-30 seconds, and repeating the tilt
- Rotating your head sideways until you feel a gentle stretch, holding for 15-30 seconds, and repeating the rotation
- Raising your shoulders and moving them in a circular position forward and backward several times
Each of these exercises can be performed while sitting at your desk or in your car. They can also be helpful when performed in the morning and at night before bed.
Other Neck Pain Prevention Steps
Other aspects of our modern lifestyles also contribute to neck and back pain. These include excessive cell phone use and excessive stress.
While it's not possible to eliminate screentime or stress, you can take steps to lessen both.
- Enact boundaries for yourself and your family: Make the dinner table a no cell phone zone and set a time in the evening after which you won't answer emails.
- When possible, answer emails and read long documents on your computer rather than your phone.
- Make self-care a priority: Take 5-10 minutes each day to sit or lay quietly. If you find it helpful, use a meditation app or quiet music for an additional calming effect.
- Engage in leisure activities that you enjoy, and make these a priority.
The Takeaway: Lumbar Pain Can Be a Pain in the Neck, but Lumbar Support Can Help
The facts are clear. If you've ever wondered, "Does lumbar support help neck pain," the answer is a definitive yes.
In fact, lumbar pain is an underlying cause in many cases of neck pain. Poor posture and other aspects of our modern lifestyles contribute to this pain. Therefore, strengthening the lumbar region and providing proper support are important steps toward a more comfortable life.
As you explore options for relieving and preventing neck and back pain, count on PowerRebound's Back Bible for the best advice.