Your mind is focused on a lot of things when you're studying, like exams, projects, deadlines, scheduling, remembering what you need to learn, and learning it, all at the same time! It's easy to let studying take over your time and attention, and even though it's important, this can make you forget about your health.
There are a lot of things that people think about when they're studying, but one thing that isn't talked about enough is how much strain you put on your neck. While this may not be your top priority, hunching over books and screens for hours at a time can make it hard for you to study and learn. The following are some ways you can keep your neck pain at bay while you study, which will both help your health and your grades:
1. Maintain a correct posture
When it comes to neck pain, your posture is the most important thing you can do. This is especially true when you're at school. Spending a lot of time in the same position will always have negative effects, but spending a lot of time in the wrong position will be very bad for your health. Due to this, it is essential to pay attention to posture especially when one is focusing on the task at hand such as taking notes. Check to see if your body is almost like a set of steps. Your ears should be right above your shoulders, which should be right above your hips, and so on. This will keep your back at a right angle to your knees, which should be at a right angle to your ankles at all times.
2. When you study, take a break.
There are certain health risks that come with becoming more and more sedentary. While studying or doing homework, it's not always possible to avoid sitting. However, we can take some steps to make this non-physical activity less of an impact on our health and our bodies.
One of the easiest ways to avoid pain caused by sitting for too long is to take breaks often. It doesn't matter if you just get up and walk to the kitchen for a glass of water every half hour. Your back will thank you.
3. Practice some stretches
Stretches you can do at your desk can also help you stay flexible and keep your neck from becoming stiff and tense while you study for a long time during the day. Back pain can be relieved by some easy stretches that can be done at your desk such as a seated spinal rotation stretch. You can do this while sitting at your desk all day, which can make your back feel tight. If your arms are crossed, you can turn slowly to the right as far as you can go, then to the left.
Simple stretching of our arms, legs, or body offloads our muscles and goes a long way in preventing stiffness and pain.
For a tight neck, try a stretch of the upper trapezius muscle group. This means that you should be sitting upright in your chair with your feet firmly on the ground. You should hold the chair with the hand on the opposite side of the side you will be stretching, so if you want to stretch your left side first, you should hold the chair with your right hand. Lean your head slowly down until you feel a light stretch, hold for 15-20 seconds, then do the same thing on the other side. Do this for both sides.
4. Make sure that your computer screen is level with your eyes, so you can see it.
Close your eyes and sit back in your chair. Then, when you open them, your eyes should be right in the middle of your computer screen. If you have to look down, you should raise your screen.
The most common way to see the screen on a laptop is to bend your head down. Connecting your laptop to a separate screen, or a monitor is often very helpful. Using an elevated desk for the keyboard, a book holder, etc can prevent unnecessary bending. Such simple modifications go a long way in preventing neck pain.
5. Use Lumbar Support to help your back and neck.
There are things you can use to help you keep good posture. One way to do this is to use lumbar support. A lumbar pillow is a cushion that you can put on your chair to help support your lower back. If you can't find a cushion, roll up a towel and put it behind your lower back. If you put this on, it will help you stay balanced and take the strain off of your back. Additionally, forearms should be well placed on the desk and feet supported on the ground (and not dangling).
6. Make sure you stay well hydrated.
You should drink lots of water during the day to keep your neck's discs healthy and well-hydrated. This is one reason to drink a lot of water. In general, the water in these discs is what makes them flexible and strong, so stay well-hydrated to keep your discs flexible and strong!
Drink at least eight large glasses of water a day. Try a few things and see which one works best for you:
Every day, drink from your water bottle as you go about your day.
Each time the alarm on your watch or cell phone goes off, drink a glass of water.
30 mins before or after each meal, drink 2 to 3 large glasses of water.
7. Relieve pain at the trigger point.
There are joints in your spine called facet joints, and if they're inflamed, they can cause muscle trigger point pains in your neck. Trigger points are small knots in the muscle or fascia, which is a layer of tissue that is under your skin and around your muscle. They can cause pain, and they can also be caused by overuse.
If you want to work on these trigger points and lessen the pain, there are massages you can do on your own that will help:
a. Cold Therapy/ Heat Therapy
Cold therapy helps with reducing the blood flow to the region and thereby reduces the swelling & pain
Heat therapy helps in relaxing the muscles & increasing the blood flow thereby bringing more nutrients to the region
Precaution: Both these techniques should be done only for 15 - 20 minutes at a time followed by at least 2-hour break for your skin in the affected region to recover
b. Tennis/Cricket ball
Tennis or cricket balls can be used to self-massage trigger points on the shoulder blades.
Place the racquetball between the shoulder blades and the wall as you lean against the wall with your upper back against the wall.
It will take about two minutes for your body to move as you roll the ball on top of your muscles.
c. Topical Medicines
Topical medicines such as creams, moisturisers, etc can help with reducing the symptoms and pain for a short period of time. However, they will not help you solve the issue permanently.
These tips will not only help you avoid pain in your neck, but they will also improve your mood and your grades. When you study, keep in mind that your body has not been designed to continuously stare at the book or the computer screen for a long time. Simple movements, stretching exercises, being hydrated, and following other steps mentioned above will go a long way in maintaining the health of your neck muscles.
We hope this helps you keep your neck pain at bay, reduce it, and deal with it. If you have tried these solutions and are still facing issues then you should definitely consult a physiotherapist to understand the root cause of your pain. There are 20+ medical conditions affecting either the muscles, bones, or nerves which can cause neck pain and each of them has to be treated in a specific manner.
Physiotherapy can help with:
Reducing neck pain and stiffness
Improving the range of motion of your neck
Increasing the strength & flexibility of your neck muscles
Ensuring that the pain doesn’t come again
If you'd like to know more about how we can help you, our physiotherapists would be happy to answer any questions you might have.