The One Thing You're Doing Every Day That's Hurting Your Neck

This common habit is actually putting put more strain on your health than you may realize.

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There are obvious things that may impact our health, like eating too much sugar or not exercising enough. But not all the ways we might be hurting ourselves are as obvious. In fact, you may have picked up bad habits that you had no idea were harmful to your health because they're so common. According to experts, this is the one thing you're doing everyday that's really hurting your neck: carrying a heavy bag on one side. To find out exactly how this can cause neck pain, read on, and for more dangerous habits to avoid, discover Which Bad Habit Could Increase Your Risk of Dying From COVID.

"When you carry a heavy book bag or purse over one shoulder, you increase the strength of your back and shoulder muscles on one side," Leann Poston, MD, a licensed physician and medical advisor for Invigor Medical, explains. "These muscles are held in a contracted position causing asymmetry of the back. This asymmetry pulls on the tendons, soft tissue, and vertebrae of the neck, causing pain."

Part of the problem, as Alex Tauberg, DC, a chiropractor and owner of The Pittsburgh Chiropractor, explains, is that this pain isn't usually immediate, which may be why people don't realize the harm they're causing. Most people don't feel pain just from putting a heavy bag on one of their shoulders once. It's when it becomes a habit that this behavior causes strain, which leads to pain.

"In and of itself, the strain is not harmful. Our bodies are meant to be able to adapt to different strains and loads," Tauberg says. "The issue is when we sustain a certain strained position for a long period of time, repetitively, or at a higher load than our bodies are prepared for. When this happens, we can sustain overuse or even true strain event injuries."

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Matthew Cooper, DC, an expert in physical and occupational therapy and owner of USA Sports Therapy, says the pain from these kind of neck injuries can take months to develop. And it can also manifest in different ways, according to Mona Zall, DO, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute. A strain injury could manifest as neck pain, but it could present as neck fatigue, stiffness, or even as associated headaches, Zall says.

According to Tauberg, the best way to alleviate this neck pain is prevention. He says "training your neck muscles to be prepared for the loads placed on them can prevent this type of injury." But if you're already experiencing pain, there may be a series of treatment methods used, Zall says.

"They include medications, modalities, and therapy," she says. Medications used typically include acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, which can address pain in acute settings and decrease inflammation. Zall says natural remedies like massages and heat can also be used to alleviate the pain.

"Once the pain has improved, therapy should begin," she says. "Areas to focus on include posture, proper spinal biomechanics, strengthening of the muscles in the neck and upper back, flexibility and range of motion."

Of course, using these treatments and opting to never carry a heavy bag on one shoulder again won't fix all your health problems. There are countless other common things you're probably doing day-by-day that are harming your health. Keep reading for more everyday habits to avoid, and for other health news you might have missed, learn How Going to Bed Past This Exact Time Is Hurting Your Health.

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Skipping breakfast

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Despite often being referred to as the "most important meal of the day," many people skip breakfast because they're either not hungry or they're running behind and don't have time. But it's said to be most important meal for a reason. In fact, a 2016 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that not eating breakfast at home can increase your risk of weight gain. And for more reasons you shouldn't skip this important meal, find out how Skipping Breakfast Can Significantly Shorten Your Lifespan.

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Chewing gum

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While this habit may seem innocent enough, it can produce some serious problems. Not only can it potentially cause cavities if the gum contains sugar, but the act of chewing can also strain your jaw and cause pain, according to Delta Dental. And for more dental disasters, here's how You May Be Ruining Your Teeth Without Even Realizing It.

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Sitting for long hours

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Most people sit for a majority of the day whether they're working, commuting, or relaxing at home. And yes, even that comes with consequences. A 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that sitting for long periods of time puts you at risk for diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and even death. And for more reasons to get up and get moving, check out these 25 Amazing Health Benefits of Walking.

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Touching your face

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Many people involuntarily touch their face several times throughout the day. Usually, they never think twice about it, but you may want to start. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, regularly touching your face can expose it to dirt, oil, bacteria, and viruses, which can trigger acne and increase your risk of infection. And for more useful content delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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