Do you experience back, neck or shoulder pain
or all three at once?
According to the NHS 3 in 10 adults are affected by back, neck and shoulder pain. It is, by far, the number one issue I come across in my work as a Holistic Therapist. Each one can be experienced in isolation or altogether.
More often than not these symptoms are a result of muscular irritation (myofascial pain) due to bad posture, repetitive use/overuse, stress or lack of strength. Of course, there could be other reasons why pain might be experienced and if in doubt please seek the advice of your GP.
Poor Posture: Do you sit in front of a laptop or on a sofa for long periods of time without changing position? The health of the neck is subject to the curvature of the spine below and the position of the head above. Forward head posture is where the head sits further forward than the shoulders which can cause strain on the neck, round the shoulders and upper back, all causing pain. Working at a laptop which is at the wrong angle or spending lots of time looking at your phone can cause these postural problems.
Repetitive use/overuse: Do you have a job that requires you to do the same movement over and over again (i.e. lifting, typing) or do you enjoy rigorous exercise classes/high intensity interval training which can put strain on your muscles? In general, repetitive strain refers to any injury that results from overuse of a body part to perform a repetitive task, or from sustained and awkward positions. In most people this occurs at work with tasks such as typing. Muscles and tendons within the hands and wrists become inflamed and this can have a knock on effect on the back, shoulders and neck causing pain, stiffness, tenderness and discomfort. Also look at the bag you carry – do you use one shoulder or the crook of your elbow to hold it and how heavy is it? This can put strain on you too.
Stress: Do you feel stressed or anxious? Both long periods and short periods of stress and anxiety can drastically increase muscle tension, which can in turn increase pain experienced. Our backs contain a variety of muscles that are known to tense during stress. The back, shoulder or neck pain is secondary to the stress or anxiety and is due to behaviours that have been adopted. These behaviours could be sitting in a slouched or hunched position or inactivity which can result in the muscles being less mobile therefore causing pain.
There are many treatments available to you, most of which you can do yourself at home or at work. These are the ones I talk about and recommend in my work.
Posture: Regularly check your posture when sitting and standing. Try to make a conscious effort to stand tall (as though your head is being pulled upwards) and to not slouch when sitting. Check the ergonomics of your workspace – is your desk and laptop at the right height so that your forearms are at right angles when typing. Your wrists should be straight and horizontal to the desk when typing and you should not be twisting in your seat to see your screen. Also ensure your back is supported in your chair. Try to limit the amount of time you spend looking at your phone as your head naturally looks downwards to operate it.
Keep active: Try to move around during the day. If your job requires you to sit at a desk, set an alarm to remind you to get up and move around at least once an hour. If you have difficulty moving around I will be sharing some stretches at the end of this blog to help you get moving and alleviate back, neck and shoulder pain. However, if your pain is due to vigorous exercise then ease off of your normal workout routine for a few days to give your symptoms a chance to subside.
Massage: Holistic massage is a natural way to facilitate healing within your body. It can help to restore health and wellness. Massage therapy targets soft tissue – muscular issues i.e. overworked areas of tension, muscle spasms, strained or pulled muscles etc. It has legitimate medical properties effective in aiding pain management and recovery. The top layers of muscles directly benefit from hands on massage because it loosens the tightened muscles and encourages effective blood flow and energy. It can certainly bring relief to pain and discomfort experienced in the back, neck or shoulder area. As well as being a Holistic Therapist I book in to receive a back, neck and shoulder massage every month as maintenance.
Acupuncture: This is another holistic treatment that stems from traditional Chinese medicine in which trained practitioners stimulate specific points on the body by inserting thin needles into the skin. It is surprisingly relatively pain free considering that needles are used!
I know a fantastic Physiotherapist and Acupuncturist in my local area if any of you would like a personal recommendation. I have received a course of acupuncture from her which made a real difference to the pain, tension and mobility problems I was having in my neck, back and shoulders. From a physical point of view the best way I can describe it is a great feeling of relief as the needle is inserted and the tension disperses. I thoroughly recommend it.
Chiropractic: A Chiropractor specifically addresses the disorders of the musculoskeletal system, focusing on the hard tissue – the spine and joints. So if your back, neck or shoulder issues are due to problems with your spine, for example, you could benefit from seeing a Chiropractor where they may carry out procedures to manipulate or adjust the spine.
Stretching: Stretching improves your range of movement, your posture and provides stress relief. I am a big advocate of stretching and I must say it has without doubt helped with my own back, neck and shoulder pain. Stretching is a build-able habit, you can work it into your day – as you wake up, at your desk at work, before bed etc. Ensure you breathe properly (check out my blog on breathing) and never hold your breath. The more you do it the easier it will become. Below are some very simple stretches for your head, neck, shoulders, arms and torso. (Please get advice from your GP before trying these if you are new to stretching).
Stretching neck and shoulders
Raise both shoulders at once up toward the ears.
Drop them and repeat 10 times.
Relax and lean your head forward.
Slowly roll toward one side and hold for 10 seconds.
Repeat on other side.
Relax again and lift your chin back to starting position.
Do this three times for each direction.
Upper trapezius stretch:
Gently pull your head toward each shoulder until a light stretch is felt.
Hold the pose for 10 to 15 seconds.
Alternate once on each side.
Stretching our your arms
Raise your arm and bend it so that your hand reaches behind your head towards the opposite shoulder.
Use your other hand and pull the elbow toward your head.
Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
Repeat on the other side.
Extend each arm individually overhead ensuring shoulder is sitting in its socket.
Reach to the opposite side straight over your head, don’t lean forwards.
Hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
Repeat on the other side.
Stretching our your torso & shoulders
Clasp hands behind your back.
Push the chest outward, with back straight and raise the chin.
Hold the pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
Raise your hands in front of you with arms out straight and lower your head in line with your arms.
Press forward and hold for 10 to 30 seconds.
Keep your feet firmly on the ground, facing forward (try not to cross your legs like in this picture).
Twist your upper body in the direction of the arm that’s resting on the back of your chair. (try to keep your head, neck and body in line with each other).
Hold pose for 10 to 30 seconds.
Repeat on other side.
Tip: Exhale as you lean into the stretch for a greater range of motion.
Please let me know if you have found this useful or if there is anything else you would like to know about. Either comment below, email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org or drop me a comment on my Facebook page: Nicola Meir Holistic Therapies.