With so many of us spending a lot more of our days indoors at home, it’s fair to say that our routines have been flipped upside down. Working from home has been a reality for some of us for a while now, and since we’ve decreased our non-essential activity outside of the home, our step count has likely taken a hit. Our bodies are undoubtedly feeling the effects of this, so you’re not alone if you’ve been feeling tension in your neck and shoulder area recently.
In this article from Pharmica, we’ll outline some of the causes of neck and shoulder pain, and propose 4 methods for prevention and reduction.
What Causes Neck & Shoulder Pain?
Aches and soreness in the neck and shoulders may occur for a variety of reasons, commonly associated with sprains and strains from sports or other physical activity-related overexertions, but often from something as simple as imperfect posture.
Common causes of neck and shoulder pain may include:
- Bad Posture or Sleeping Position
- Soft Tissue Injuries such as sprains from sport, whiplash or other accidents.
- Cervical spondylosis - a condition characterised by the rubbing and wearing down of the spinal disks in the neck. Commonly associated with ageing, it affects more than 84% of people over the age of 60.
- Pinched Nerve - an irritation of the nerve in the neck, branching away from the spinal cord, and causing pain that sometimes radiates to the shoulders.
Preventing and Treating the Discomfort
Here are 4 different methods to reduce your neck and shoulder pain.
1. Fix your Sleep
Considering we spend between ¼ to ⅓ of our lives asleep, it’s vital to make sure our sleep quality isn’t overlooked. Poor sleep positioning can easily contribute to neck and shoulder pain, so make sure you consider these easy improvements to your nighttime routine.
If you sleep on your front, it’s time to try a new position. Front sleeping forces your head to one side which can lead to neck strain, so consider sleeping on your back. Whilst sleeping on your side better for the neck, it can cause stiffness in the shoulders. Unless you suffer from sleep apnea or snoring, sleeping on your back is ideal for both your neck and shoulders.
Being consistent with your spinal alignment whilst sleeping is so important to good neck health, and having too many pillows or a pillow that’s too high will tilt your neck into an awkward position. Experiment to find what works best, but quite often a softer pillow will be better suited to a stiffer one. An orthopedic pillow may be a good option if you’re suffering with regular feather-filled pillows.
2. Being at your Desk
Working long hours at your desk is sometimes unavoidable these days (although, we do recommend taking regular breaks throughout the day if you can!), so it’s worth considering the aspects of your setup that could be contributing to tension and aches.
One of the best investments for your work space is a supportive chair. Whilst your lower back will also benefit from this greatly, your improved posture will promote healthy shoulder and neck positioning. You should adjust the height and tilt of your chair for more comfort whilst working, and consider a chair with a high back for additional upper back and shoulder support.
Make sure that your screen is at the optimal height; the top of your monitor should be at eye level. Try raising this up or adjusting your chair height so you’re not reaching in a peculiar angle to view your work. If you work from a laptop, a raised stand can bring it higher up and closer to resting eye level.
Standing Whilst Working
Whilst also making the above adjustments, try varying up your working position by standing whilst working as well as sitting. At the high end, motorised desks that raise and lower are very popular, but using a small coffee table on top of your desk will provide a simple alternative that provides variety.
3. OTC Pain Relief
For effective and immediate solutions to your neck or shoulder pain, over-the-counter pain relief treatments like paracetamol or ibuprofen are easily-affordable options. Pain relief gel like Voltarol is also an appropriate option, especially if you have inflammation you wish to reduce.
4. Neck and Shoulder Exercises
Performing targeted exercises each day is one of the best ways to relieve tension, whilst also improving strength, posture and mobility. These 3 example stretches can be done either standing or seated; try these out at a slow pace to reduce the chances of further damage to the affected areas.
Bring your head straight backwards whilst maintaining looking straight ahead (ie. don’t tilt your head upwards). Gently rotate your head to the left or right side as far as you can comfortably go. For an additional stretch, get to this last position and then tilt your head downwards, as if trying to look over your shoulder, but be conscious to keep your shoulders level throughout the movement. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side. Do this sequence 4 or so times.
Shoulder Blade Pull
Raise your arms out to your front, bending your elbows as if riding a bicycle. Relax your shoulders and neck, keep your neck still, and squeeze your upper back muscles together between your shoulder blades. Return to the neutral position, and repeat roughly 4 times.
Hanging your arms loosely by your sides, slowly move your shoulders up, back, and down in a circular motion, and repeat this movement 10 times, before rotating in the opposite direction.
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