3 Reasons Why Your Neck and Shoulders Might Be Sore and Tight

Learn how to relieve that annoying and painful ache you can get in your upper traps and neck area.

A real pain in the neck!

One of the most common complaints that I see people coming into my clinic with, is that annoying and achy pain you can get in your upper traps and neck area. I saw it years ago when I was in college training to be a physical therapist and see it even more now. I have myself, also fallen victim to it  many myself.

While I was lucky, in that my episodes of experiencing this pain went after a few days, some people are not so fortunate and they can spend years living with it. It can be very debilitating and can really limit their movements and activities. It can also lead to headaches and referral pain, that travels down you arm.

So why is this complaint such a common one and what can be done to help it.

3 of the most common reasons I see are:

It is important to note that everyone has a reason why their pain occurs. Everyone’s pain will be unique to them and the reasons why some pains can go away after a few days and other pains can hang around for longer, will be down to the persons lifestyle, beliefs, activity levels, emotions, habits and attitude. (Read more about the complexities of pain here).

However, there are a few common reasons why neck and shoulder pain occurs. Here are 3 of them.

1 – Lack of movement. (i.e tissues been held in the same position for too long)

  • Tissues include muscles, nerves, ligaments, tendons, skin and fascia. They all love movement and it’s very normal and healthy for them to contact, relax, shorten and stretch. When this happens, blood and nutrients are delivered to the tissues and the waste products are carried away. When there is a lack of movement, it results in a build up of waste products around the area and these can irritate the tissues resulting in stiffness, aches and pains.

Solution

  •  As a lot of us spend time sitting at a desk, it is easy to end up hunching your shoulders and staying in the same position for a long time. Your bodies signal to get moving again is to give you some pain, resulting in you getting up and moving your shoulders.
  • Make a conscious effort  to change your position every 20 – 30 minutes and roll your shoulders back, stretch and move. Good posture is a posture that is changing and varying it’s position regularly.

2 -.Weakness in the muscle

  • One of the roles of your upper traps is to dissipate forces away from your neck. If there is a weakness in your upper traps, then your neck muscles may have to  take up the slack and work harder. Imagine this in your own work environment. If one worker is lazy and not pulling their weight, then everyone else has to work a little harder to make up for their lack of work. This results in the other workers getting tired, grumpy and irritated.

Solution

Strengthen the muscle. This is quite easy to do and upper trap strengthening exercises can be done at home with little or no equipment. The trick here is to relate the movement to what the person needs to do. There is no point in having an older person lift a 12kg weight, when all they want is be able reach up and lift something down from a shelf.

3 – Breathing Patterns 

Breathing is something we must do around 21,000 times per day. If you breath excessively through your mouth and use your chest and neck muscles to breath, then you are constantly working these muscles throughout the day. Then, when they are  asked to do some extra work like housework, painting or sitting at a computer,  the extra load can turn a slightly fatigued muscles into a very fatigued muscle, resulting in a pain experience.

Solution

When you are not involved in anything strenuous or aerobic, your breathing should be calm and relaxed. In though your nose and out through your nose. This has the effect of putting your body in a rest and digest phase, allowing everything to work as it should.

The opposite to this is ‘fight or flight’, which puts your body in a slight state of stress and this can irritate tissues if this is a regular and daily occurance.

 

Conclusion

So there you have it. 3 reasons why you may have that aching pain around your shoulders and neck and 3 things you can do to start the process of relieving it.

If you have been suffering with this type of pain for long and if it’s really getting in the way of you doing your favorite activities, then call the clinic and I can discuss it with you. Very often this can be helped and you can get back to doing the things you love to do, without pain, stiffness or the problem re-occurring.

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