If this article has caught your eye, the chances are you're very familiar with the misery of tight, tense, painful neck and shoulder muscles. It can often feel like no matter how hard we try and re-position our chairs or computers, sit correctly at our desks or stretch out our shoulders, none of it makes any difference to the pain and discomfort.
If you're currently suffering then you're certainly not alone. The problem seems to be reaching near epidemic levels and I see countless clients who all report similar pain patterns in their neck and shoulders.
With this mind here are my suggestions for getting a handle on your neck and shoulder pain once and for all.
Think About What Triggers Your Pain
When does your pain feel at its worst? Is it after spending long hours at a computer? Maybe you notice it after looking at your phone or tablet. Does it feel worse when you've been driving a long distance or when your stress levels are high? Is it painful first thing in the morning or does it get worse through the day? Remember it's very possible that a combination of factors are causing it.
Once you've worked out what your pain triggers are, think about how you can make a few simple changes. If you feel the most pain after long stints at your computer consider taking more breaks away from your desk. If you feel pain first thing in the morning then your posture during the night could be a problem. If you feel pain after looking at your phone think about whether you could be holding it differently.
Stress can often be a big contributing factor to muscle tension in the neck and shoulders. If you've noticed that your pain gets worse the more stressed you are this is a sure sign that you need to find a way to 'switch off' and relax. There are all kinds of relaxation techniques which are easy to learn and only need to take up a few minutes of your day. Trying a short morning meditation or using a simple breathing technique throughout the day can make a big difference. If you're not sure where to start, try creating a relaxation evening in the comfort of your own home. You may be surprised at how much better your neck and shoulders feel afterwards!
Get Regular Massage Treatments
Massage ticks all the boxes when it comes to dealing with neck and shoulder pain. It can relax and loosen tight, tense muscles, it boosts circulation to the area, it can work on painful 'knots' and it's also great for dealing with stress and helping you to relax.
For clients suffering from chronic muscle tension I usually suggest a combination of deep tissue massage with trigger point therapy to help get rid of knots. I find certain aromatherapy blends can be very useful too.
Do be aware that one treatment probably won't act as a cure-all for this kind of chronic muscle pain. As a general rule of thumb I advise clients to try a course of 6 regular treatments before dropping down to occasional treatments to maintain the improved muscle tone.
Using exercise to strengthen your back is a great way to improve neck and shoulder pain. When the rest of the muscles in your back are strong and engaged they can help to maintain your posture and take the strain away from the overworked muscles in your upper back.
I often recommend yoga or pilates to my clients to strengthen the entire body, improve posture and to hep with relaxation and stress relief too.
Watch Your Posture
We've all heard the advice about sitting correctly at our desks, correct lifting, etc, etc. Some of us have probably had to sit through entire work training courses on the subject! But as boring as it sometimes sounds, this advice really can make a difference to your neck and shoulder pain. So many of us sit hunched over our computer screens for hours with our shoulders rounded and our heads too far forward. The below infographic is a great reminder of how to maintain good posture.
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Please note this information is not designed to take the place of medical advice. If you are experiencing un-diagnosed or extreme back, neck or shoulder pain you should always seek the advice of your GP.