Take the pain out of neck and shoulder strain

Niggles in the neck and sore shoulders are both very common and are often down to injury, stress, tension, poor posture, sleeping position – or any combination of the above. The good news is that most symptoms can be alleviated via osteopathy and/or acupuncture.

It’s complicated

The neck, in particular, is a delicate and tricky mechanism. It’s comprised of seven vertebrae (bones) separated by shock-absorbing discs. Supporting these vertebrae are muscles that allow the neck to move and ligaments – fibres linking the vertebrae. Unfortunately, because of its structure and the requirement for it to carry around our heavy heads, a lot can go wrong. Common problems include wry neck (torticollis) when the head becomes painfully twisted to one side (sleeping position is usually to blame) or simple wear and tear of the discs and small joints as we age. Stress doesn’t help, either, as tension builds up in the muscles at the back of the neck and shoulders leading to pain and/or tension headaches.

The perils of tech neck

One of the most widespread causes of both neck and shoulder problems is poor posture, most usually ‘tech neck’ or muscle tension and strain associated with hunching over screens – TVs, computers, iPads, e-readers and phones. The payback for this, says the Institute of Osteopathy, can be a tight neck and upper back muscles, trapped nerves and stiff joints with pain and numbness radiating through shoulders and hands if left untreated. So, what can the screen-obsessed do to treat (and avoid) tech neck and sore, throbbing shoulders?

Banishing tech neck and shoulder pain

  • Use heat and/or ice packs on affected areas for immediate pain relief.
  • Check your posture – correct sitting reduces the strain on muscles and ligaments. So, sit upright and well back in the chair with a cushion at the small of your back, shoulders in line with your hips and chin back. Ensure that your computer screen is at eye level. When standing, stand straight with your shoulders gently back and your chin tucked in.
  • Watch your sleeping position – avoid snoozing on your front, keep your neck straight and sleep on one low, firm pillow, if necessary, adding a rolled towel into the pillowcase so it’s directly under your neck.
  • Stay active – exercise keeps muscles flexible and joints mobile. While sitting for prolonged periods, simple exercises such as rolling your shoulders back gently or careful side-to-side neck movements will help.
  • Take a break – escape from screens by going for a walk or switching to another activity.
  • Keep hydrated – as the discs between the vertebrae in the spine have a high-water content, drinking plenty of water will ensure they (and you) stay healthy.
  • Be sensible – if your neck and shoulders are really stiff, don’t drive. And don’t use a neck collar unless your doctor advises it.

Generally, neck pain can take a couple of weeks to improve while shoulder strain often takes longer – about 4-6 weeks. If pain and stiffness persist, therapies such as Osteopathy can help alleviate symptoms via gentle manipulations, soft tissue massaging and joint movement.

What our clients think

“Denise Callaghan has been treating a neck problem of mine of which has really helped improve it. She is a lovely, warm person who is very knowledgeable, and I would not hesitate to recommend her.” (Gemma Kearley)

“Denise was prompt at getting in contact with my partner who had been suffering with shoulder pain. Denise gave a practical consultation and after only a couple of sessions my partner’s shoulder is much better. A big thank you to Denise who hasn’t only just helped my partner to feel 100% again but has opened my eyes to the benefits of alternative medicine!” (Luke Richards)

In my practice, I often use osteopathy in conjunction with acupuncture to relieve neck and shoulder strain, as the two therapies work well together. If you’d like to discuss how they might help your neck and shoulder pain please get in touch.

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