Are you one of the many unfortunate people today who suffer from constant or recurring shoulder and neck pain? In my sports massage clinic at Beautiful Angels Salon this is one of the most common problems people come to me with.
It often feels like a hot, stabbing or nagging discomfort near the base of the neck or top of the shoulder and can send shooting pains either up the neck, down the side of the shoulder blades, or across to the side of the shoulder. It can also be accompanied by tension at the base of the skull, and stiffness when turning the head, and can lead to headaches, and even tingling or numbness in the arm and hand, particularly at night or upon waking in the morning.
These symptoms are often brought on or made worse by day to day activities like working at a computer or laptop, or driving a car. For many people this can become a chronic complaint lasting for months or years at a time.
The reason that this problem has become so common and is becoming more and more prevalent is because it is caused by our 21st century lifestyle. The human body is not well adapted to spending long periods of time hunched over a computer, and although in an ideal world we should sit up straight and stop slouching (like we were taught to at school), for most of us good posture will only last for a few minutes until our attention becomes absorbed by our computer screen and our spine will begin to flex forward once more into an unhealthy curve.
Tech-Neck: A Product of Our
Flexion Addicted society
Many other day to day activities cause this forward-flexed posture of the neck and shoulders, such as using our smart phones, reading a book or newspaper, even otherwise healthy activities like riding a bike or doing spinning classes can add to the problem. It’s fair to say that we live in a flexion addicted society!
Because of the length of time we spend in a flexed position throughout the day, for many of us it starts to become our normal posture. The muscles on the front of our necks, shoulders and chest become shorter and keep us locked in this position so even when we are standing upright our shoulders and head are held a little further forward than they should be.
The reason this creates so many painful problems in our necks is simple, the average human head weighs around 12lbs, which is easily supported by the small muscles of the neck. However, for every 2 inches your head comes forward the weight of your head on your neck is doubled due to the increased leverage of gravity. So even a small postural shift forward in your head position puts heavy loads through the small muscles in your neck and shoulders that are doing their best to support it.
All too often people resign themselves to living with the discomfort without realising that there is effective treatment available for this condition. So how do you stop the pain?
First we have to realise that the painful muscles in the base of the neck and the back of the shoulders are the victims in this drama, not the villains. Although calming and soothing these troubled areas is a worthwhile part of any good treatment, treating these painful spots will only bring temporary relief at best and will not solve the problem because they are not causing the problem.
The discomfort you feel there is a symptom of the strain being exerted on them by the short and over-tightened muscles at the front of the neck, shoulders and chest that are constantly pulling the head and shoulders forward – the true villains of the story. It is here you must focus your efforts if you want to be free from pain over the long term.
When people come to me with this painful condition I use a wide range of specialised stretches and muscle release techniques to restore good posture and free them from these ongoing nagging pains. But here’s an easy and effective stretch you can do at home or at work if you want to try to manage your pain yourself.
Place your elbows on either side of a doorframe and step through the doorway to apply a gentle stretch to the muscles on the front of your chest and shoulders.
Hold for 2-3 minutes. Stretch between 1-3 times per day
Do not over-stretch – just move forward to a point where you feel a gentle stretch on the shoulders or chest and hold that position, do not “bounce” in and out of the stretch. Take deep breaths until you feel the muscles release a little, then take up the slack with a small movement forward.
Stop after two or three minutes
If this exercise causes you pain or your symptoms worsen then you should stop immediately and seek professional advice before attempting it.
If you suffer with this or any other muscle or joint pain and you’d like to enquire about professional treatment then please call Beautiful Angels Reception on 01344 625625