One of the most common conditions I see at Killarney Massage Therapy Centre is neck and shoulder pain and I think we all have at some point in our lives felt like we have pieces of cement on our shoulders especially at times when we have a lot of physical and emotional stress.
If you are a cyclist, someone who spends a lot of time driving or who spends a lot of time at a computer or on a hand held device you may find yourself with neck and shoulder pain due to overuse and/or misuse, without you even knowing it you may be encouraging neck and shoulder pain by the way you perform everyday activities.
Technology is a wonderful complement to our lives but spending too much time at a computer or on a hand held device can wreak havoc to our posture causing our heads to move forward putting a huge amount of pressure on to the small muscles of the neck and the upper back. In fact for every inch your head moves forward it gains 10lb in weight causing the muscles to work that much harder to stop the head from dropping forward. Muscles never work in isolation so this then has a knock on effect to the muscles in the upper back resulting in hyper kyphosis where the upper back rounds more than it should, this then also affects the front of the body shortening the muscles around the chest which in turn limits breathing capacity which then can affect our energy and mood and a range of other things. It is also thought that neck pain is the cause of 90% of undiagnosed headaches.
Whether you are on your computer, hand held device, reading or driving try to maintain a neutral spine, this often means drawing the ears back so they line up with the shoulders, try to have what you are looking at whether book, or computer e.t.c at eye distance to avoid looking up or down which strains the muscles of the neck. Allow the elbows to rest by your sides and the shoulders to be relaxed.
Neck and shoulder pain is often accompanied by stress so try to avoid any stressors in your life if possible, if they can’t be avoided then giving yourself some time for self care whether that be a warm bath or time for relaxation or meditation even if it’s only 5-10 minutes for you so you’re able to better deal with the stress in your life.
Heat treatments often give a welcome relief from tight, painful muscles, just simply placing a heat pack or hot water bottle on the area can remind the muscles to soften and let go. (Heat shouldn’t be used on acute conditions (the first 24-48 hours) ice is best in these instances)
So often when we spend long periods of time on our bikes, at our computers or driving our heads are fixed into one position for long periods of time our muscles love movement so doing some gentle neck stretches can help to release the muscles around the head. Here's one of the simple neck stretches and exercises you can do:
~Sit in a neutral position looking straight ahead.
~Stretch your neck downward, moving your chin toward your chest. Hold for 10 seconds.
~Slowly tilt your head one inch to the right, and to the left.
Another helpful tip is to release the chest muscles by using a rolled up towel along the bra strap line (for guys horizontally underneath the shoulder blades), lay down on the floor with either something underneath the knees if you have low back issues or flat on the ground, relax down into the rolled up towel and stay for as long as you can preferably for at least 5-10 minutes to allow the muscles to relax. This is a great way to counteract all the forward oriented movement we do throughout the day and avoiding the hyper kyphotic curve that can develop in the upper spine.
Advanced clinical massage therapist and yoga teacher.