According to several studies, about 67 percent of adults experience severe neck and shoulder pain in their lifetime. As a CMT, I would have guessed the actual number is much higher than this. As it turns out, neck pain is one of the primary reasons people visit their physician. Unfortunately, many people don’t know what causes this pain and as a result they do not know how to prevent and relieve it. Below is a summary of a few of the major causes of neck and shoulder pain.
Stress causes your muscles to tense up and contract, which leaves them feeling stiff and sore, which makes emotional stress the leading culprit of neck and shoulder pain. We often remember the old saying, “he’s carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders”, oddly enough that is the body’s physiological response to stress. It is important to take a significant amount of time of each day to relax, meditate or do something enjoyable for you. Take a warm bath, read a good book, listen to some music or even watch your favorite television show.
Daily heavy lifting and strenuous exercise can cause over-stretched and over-contracted muscles in the neck and shoulders. To prevent pain in this area when working out, it’s important to know your limits. This also applies to moving and lifting heavy items either on your own time, or at work.
Sleeping in a bad position can cause you to wake up with a crick in the neck. Assuming most of us get between 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, this leaves certain muscles contracted for that entire period. Think about how sore other muscles in your body feel when you use them for hours at a time. That is what causes the severe pain and immobility in the neck the morning after a night sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side.
Sitting at a Desk
People who spend a majority of their work day in front of a computer often have neck and shoulder pain because computer monitors are rarely aligned with the person’s eyes. This means that the person must tilt their head up or down to see the screen which puts an enormous amount of stress on the neck. Always adjust your monitor so the center of it is level with your eyes when working on a computer.
Trigger points cause pain more often than any other condition, and are drastically under-diagnosed due to the lack of information about them. Trigger points are hypersensitive areas in muscle that suffer from decreased circulation, increased contraction and spasm. Poor circulation causes a buildup of toxins and increased nerve sensitivity that manifests in the body as a low ache or a sharp pain. When someone has an active trigger point in a muscle it can cause pain in that muscle or often it can refer pain to another area in the body.
The most common referred pain is in the form of headaches, shoulder and neck pain caused from trigger points in the back of the neck, shoulder and upper back. Such trigger points can remain dormant for very long periods of time but will eventually cause spasm or pain. Many headaches (including migraines) are caused from these trigger points referring sensation into certain areas of the head. While most headache symptoms usually are treated with painkillers, though the underlying cause is almost never addressed.
Though the causes of neck and shoulder pain are diverse, there is one common cure for all of them, and it does not involve medicine. GET A MASSAGE! Almost all of the causes of neck and shoulder pain (even headaches) are muscular. So put down the anti-inflammatory meds and call your local massage therapist ASAP!!! Reduce stress, lengthen and stretch those muscles, improve your circulation, and get rid of those trigger points. It may take scheduling a few sessions to get you feeling back to normal, but you will feel the difference immediately.