What causes neck & shoulder pain?
We’ve all experienced pains in our neck at some point, and we’re not talking about people! You know the feeling, you’re sitting for a while at your desk and you’re under a lot of stress, your shoulders start to bunch up and before you know it, your neck and shoulders start to ache and you feel the onset of a killer headache coming on.
So what can you do to help alleviate this tension? Luckily there are some tips and prevention methods you can try to relieve the pain if it’s mild. Read on to find out how!
Strains or sprains are the leading cause of neck and shoulder pain. In some cases, it could be a sign of a heart attack or stroke, though for the most part, it’s usually due to incorrect posture, sports or overexertion.
Pain usually comes in the form of stiffness or soreness. You could experience tingling or shooting pain and spasms or even headaches and numbness. Tension headaches are a common result of tension in the neck area.
Before we get into the treatment of neck and shoulder pain, let’s talk about some of the causes first.
Types of injuries to cause neck and shoulder pain:
Posture or sleeping position - This is probably the most common cause of neck and shoulder pain. When you hold your neck in an awkward position for a prolonged amount of time, it will lead to strains in the muscles of your neck and shoulders. This can happen if you sleep at an awkward angle, sit at a desk too long and not in the correct posture, or during exercise if you suddenly jerk your neck into a new position.
Pinched Nerve - can show itself in tingling or numbness of the hand or fingers. It can also show up as weakness in the muscles of your arm or shoulder area. Most of the time, it’s caused by changes in your spine due to an injury or aging. If you have a pinched nerve in your neck, the pain could radiate towards your shoulder.
Frozen shoulder - people with diabetes, between the ages of 40-60 years old are at greatest risk for this condition. It’s where your shoulder becomes increasingly difficult or painful to move. You should check with your doctor to verify if you’re suffering from this condition.
Shoulder tendinitis - inflammation of the tendons are common causes for pain and can occur anywhere in your body. The tendons around your rotator cuff are especially prone to this and would be a cause for the pain you’re experiencing in your shoulder area.
Rotator cuff tear - Tears in your rotator cuff area, which are the tendons that hold your upper arm to your shoulder blade, can be caused from repetitive overuse of those muscles or by a single injury, such as a fall. These kinds of injuries are common in athletes who engage in sports that use a lot of arm and muscle movements. Rotator cuff tears can cause shoulder pain and weakness in arms.
Broken collarbone or shoulder blade - this should be pretty intuitive that if you break anything near your neck or shoulders, you’re bound to experience some pain and numbness in those areas.
Whiplash - this type of injury typically happens in an auto vehicle accident and involves the tearing of muscles and ligaments in your neck from sudden movements. Whiplash can also happen in contact sports, falls or blows to the head. It often results in headaches, dizziness, blurred vision or neck pain and stiffness.
Cervical Osteoarthritis (Cervical Spondylosis) - symptoms of this age-related condition typically present themselves in neck pain or stiffness. It commonly happens in people over the age of 60 and is a form of arthritis that affects the spinal discs of your neck.
Herniated disc - results when one or more of the cervical discs in your vertebrae shrink or get damaged. If this happens, you’ll often feel pain, numbness, and aches around your neck and shoulder area.
Heart attack - while we all associate a heart attack with chest pains or a sudden pain in your arm, pain and numbness in the neck and back can also be symptoms of a heart attack. Call the emergency number and get help if you feel sudden pain in your neck, back or jaw that’s not caused from some other injury.
Stroke - Just like a heart attack, pain in the neck can be one of the symptoms of an oncoming stroke. Though you should look for other signs as well which include drooping of the face, difficulty speaking or walking and arm numbness.
Cancer - in extreme severe cases, persistent neck pain could be a symptom of cancer around the head or neck area. Contributing factors to cancer could be excessive use of tobacco or alcohol. Please consult your doctor if you’re experiencing any unusual persistent pain in your neck area.
Now that we’ve identified some of the causes of neck and shoulder pain, let’s explore how we can relieve it!
Treatments of neck and shoulder pain:
For mild pain, a gentlemassage around the neck and shoulder area can do wonders to relieve any pain in those areas. Going for regular massage treatments are optimal for maintaining the health of your tissues, not to mention your mental state as well!
You can try applying a heat pad around the area, or an ice pack to reduce swelling. Also, take note of your posture when you’re working and try to adjust yourself so that you’re not sitting at weird angles. Taking regular breaks to walk around and stretch your muscles also helps.
There are 3 basic stretches you can do:
Wing span stretch:
Repetitive movements can add extra stress to your tense muscles as well. So if you’re on the phone a lot and holding a handset, consider getting a hands-free headset so that you can maintain proper posture.
Another way to help lesson neck and shoulder pain is to strengthen your neck and shoulder muscles. Engage in exercises that target these muscle areas. You can try some shoulder shrugs to help strengthen your upper back muscles which in turn, places less stress on your neck and shoulders.
To do this exercise, sit or kneel on the floor. Keep your head straight and your arms resting at your sides. Inhale, and lift your shoulders towards your ears. Lower your shoulders as you exhale and feel your shoulder blades settle back in place. Try doing this 10 times.
We hope these tips and stretching exercises will help you and that you live a life free from pain!