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Can poor eating habits cause neck pain?

By Dr Satyen Mehta
June 12, 2019 14:20 IST

The lack of nutrition in daily diet leads to weaker bones and poor immunity, says Dr Satyen Mehta.

Can poor eating habits lead to neck pain?

Image published for representational purposes only. Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

Young adults today lead a very fast-paced, unhealthy lifestyle.

Thanks to long working hours, youngsters invest more time at work, over-stressing on their careers.

To make up for the burnout, they unwind with late night parties, fast food which eventually takes a toll on their physical and mental health. 

Wrong posture and sedentary habits along with poor eating account to most of the health problems they face today.

According to a study, nearly 45 per cent people in India ignore their neck and shoulder pain at early stages, leading to more serious health problems as they grow up.

Here are some obvious, but highly ignored causes of neck and shoulder pain in young adults:

Smoking and drinking habits

As much as there is no harm in drinking once in a while, you have to be conscious about your drinking habits.

Lack of sleep combined with alcohol and tobacco leads to breathing issues and poor sleeping habits.

Dehydration due to alcohol is one of the prime reasons why you experience shoulder and neck pain the following day.

When ignored, it could also cause anxiety leading to shivering of hands and/or legs. 

Poor eating habits

In order to save time and for quick meals young adults resort to junk outside food on a regular basis.

What young adults ignore is how these meals come at the cost of their health.

The lack of nutrition in daily diet leads to weaker bones and poor immunity.

Lack of Vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus and other nutrients contribute to pain in the bones, straining the neck and shoulder area.

Incorrect sleeping habits

An increasing number of adults end up sleeping on their stomach which affects the lower back. Slowly, you begin to experience pain in their spinal cord.

These problems can be avoided with proper sleep.

You must tuck a pillow between your legs to get rid of the pressure on your hips while you are sleeping sideways.

Sleeping on your back is the best posture for sound sleep.

An uncomfortable mattress can also be a cause of a stiff neck or pain in the neck and shoulder area.

Ensure that you invest in a comfortable mattress -- that is not too soft or thick -- so that you can sleep on your back as well as sideways giving adequate rest to your body.

Young adults need approximately 7-9 hours of sleep.

The wrong posture

People in general face back, neck and shoulder pain issues due to incorrect posture while sitting, standing, walking or performing an activity.

A working adult spends an average of 6 to 8 hours sitting in a chair working on a computer.

Sitting in the wrong posture can lead to multiple problems.

Slouching, stressing too much on your back, sitting in the same posture for too long, exerting pressure on your neck to look into a particular direction are just some of the common mistakes that stress your neck, shoulder and spine.

Set a timer to either stretch or move around after every 30 minutes.

Sitting in a hunched position can also damage the natural curve of your spinal cord which can start with pain and when ignored, it could lead to disease like arthritis, nerve compression, etc.

Poor exercise forms

While some young adults acknowledge their health issues and sign up for a gym, yoga or a popular fitness regime, it comes with its own sets of problems.

When you are doing crunches, lifting weights or taking the stairs it is important to pay attention to your posture and breathing techniques.

If you are performing any of these exercises without proper guidance, you tend to exert additional pressure on the body.

This unnecessary strain can lead to tear of muscles and injuries, eventually affecting your entire body.

The wrong footwear

A lot of young females feel confident when they wear heels. Some of them even prefer wearing them regularly to work.

It is important to realise the damage wearing heels can have on one's lower back.

You can carry flat bellies to work or use them during the commute.

This will ensure that you do not strain your ankles, spine and back muscles and your feet as well.

If your job involves wearing uncomfortable shoes, doing some long foot stretches can help you.

Carrying heavy bags (with laptop, camera etc) to work can also contribute to shoulder and neck pain.

Take a look at your bag and see if you really need to carry the load every day. If you don't have a choice, you can try balancing the load or carry an extra bag to distribute the weight.

What you should do

  • Make changes to your diet and see how you can include all nutrients into your daily plan.
  • At work, remind yourself to get up, move and stretch your body at frequent intervals.
  • Taking short breaks at work, walking short distances, eating healthy meals at frequent intervals, drinking adequate water are some healthy habits you can invest in.
  • Set yourself a proper sleep schedule. You must try and get 6 to 8 hours of sound sleep every day. It will help your body rest, rejuvenate and prepare yourself for the next day. 

After altering your lifestyle and habits, if you continue to experience pain on a frequent basis, it is wise to seek assistance from an expert spine specialist.

With the help of an MRI and CT scan, you will be advised the right exercise, physiotherapy and other medications to relieve you from pain.

Dr Satyen Mehta is spine consultant at H.E.A.L Institute, a specialist in physiotherapy and sports massages.

Dr Satyen Mehta
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