Neck and Shoulder Pain - What You Need to Know
Posture related neck pain is slowly overtaking low back pain as the most common condition we treat at our Practices. In fact, roughly 50% of people will experience an episode of neck pain1 in their lifetime! Continue reading to learn more about the causes, treatment options and preventative measures you can take to manage neck and shoulder pain.
Symptoms of neck and shoulder pain
It is common for people suffering from back pain to develop neck pain. Neck issues can also be a common cause of headaches, nausea or diziness.
This pain can be presented by one or more of the following symptoms:
- a dull constant ache in the neck and shoulders
- difficulty to turning to one side or the other
- an ache between the shoulder blade and the spine
- a feeling of tightness in the neck and shoulders
- a feeling that the shoulder is not sitting in the right place
- sitting for long periods of time triggers discomfort
- inability to get comfortable whilst sleeping
- headaches at the back/front of the head and sometimes behind the eyes
Common causes of neck pain
- The most common type of neck pain is mechanical neck pain. It occurs when neck strain exceeds the tissue capacity to take load. It often arises after a bad night’s sleep or insidiously without any identifiable incident. The causes of mechanical neck pain are often multifactorial, which may include poor posture, poor sleep, upper back stiffness, muscle tightness around the neck, inactivity, emotional stress and overuse with work or sporting activities.
- People with chronic neck pain and headaches often have impaired control of their neck muscles. A common culprit we see here at the clinic is reduced strength and control of a muscle group called your deep neck flexors. These stabilising muscles are located at the front of your neck and often ‘switch off’ when you sit in a slouched position with your chin poking forwards. This can lead to dysfunction and imbalance of the muscles around your neck.
- An increasingly common cause we are seeing in Practice is cervical postural syndrome. Stemming from your posture, cervical postural syndrome is often the biproduct of our modern lifestyle and the nature of many jobs today which involve working at a desk.
- Modern facilities are making our life easier and with them the need for us to move is becoming less and less. As a result, our strength, endurance and postural muscles become weaker, and their ability to support the neck also diminishes.
How can a physio help with neck and shoulder pain?
Watch: Our Physio, Justin explains causes of posture related neck pain and how we can provide treatment in Practice
The good news is, if you are relating to one or more of the symptoms mentioned above, a Physiotherapist will be able to help you out! Physiotherapy can help to alleviate your neck pain and promote movement in your spine. A structured program of exercises, stretching and strengthening to build endurance in your neck, shoulder and core muscles can help to improve your pain levels and functional capabilities.
Physiotherapy treatment may include:
- Vertebral joint mobilisation
- Soft tissue massage (including Superficial Dry Needling, Myofascial release, Cupping)
- Postural correction
- Clinical Exercise to improve neck and upper back muscles strength and endurance. These exercises will help you to improve your posture and prevent overuse of your joints and muscles
- Ergonomic advice and modification
- Advice on pillow choices and sleeping postures
General tips to avoid neck pain
Many types of neck pain can be prevented through simple lifestyle changes. Here are a few simple ways you can look after your neck and prevent injury.
- Using a heat pack can help to reduce muscle tension around the neck.
- Keep your chin tucked in – A good chin position aligns neck vertebrae and limits headaches. The key is not to slump your shoulders forward. If you are upright, the chin will tuck in more easily.
- Keep your neck straight. Try not to keep your neck turned for long periods of time when sleeping, sitting or socialising.
- Try not to carry a heavy bag on your shoulder. If you must use a shoulder bag or satchel, change sides often. You want to load your neck and shoulders symmetrically.
- Try not to look down for too long when reading a book or using your phone or tablet as this can result in neck pain.
- Ladies – make sure your bra fits! Wearing a bra which doesn’t fit properly can put extra strain on your shoulders and neck through the straps. It’s important to be properly fitted for your bras and replace them when they become too loose.
If you take a lot of calls at home or in the office, try using your headphones or loudspeaker instead of cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder.
To learn more about your specific situation and how a physio can help, find your nearest Back In Motion Practice here.
1. Hogg-Johnson S, Van der Velde S, Carroll L, Holm L, Cassidy D, Guzman J, Côté P, Haldeman S, Ammendolia C, Carragee,14,15 Eric Hurwitz E, Nordin, M, Peloso P. The Burden and Determinants of Neck Pain in the General Population: Results of the Bone and Joint Decade 2000–2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders. Eur Spine J. 2008 April; 17(Suppl 1): 39–51.