Neck And Shoulder Pain: the ‘curse’ of lockdown
I imagine that you are either reading this looking at your phone or on your laptop. Many of us (myself included) have been using so much more tech since lockdown. The trouble is, it is causing a rise in neck and shoulder pain. Maybe you are suffering a bit now?
So Why The Rise?
Well it is not necessarily the tech which is causing the problems. It is more the case of how we are using our devices.
Let Me Ask You a question
How are you sitting/standing as you read this?
Be honest with your answer (there is no judgement here). I imagine that you may be looking down at your device and perhaps your shoulders are slumping forward a little?
Staying like this for long periods of time is exactly what is causing the pain and tension in the neck and shoulders and the honest truth of the matter is – we all do it! We are only human after all.
It is, however, something which we need to try and nip in the bud. Both forward head positioning (FHP) and slumping (or rounded shoulders) are poor postural habits and studies are showing that it is not good for our health.
So Why Is It a Problem?
If you already suffer from neck and shoulder pain then you may recognise all of some of the symptoms below which are caused by FHP and slumping
- Headaches/ jaw ache
- Tightness and pain in the chest/shallow breathing
- Jaw tightness and pain
- Lower back pain
- Restricted mobility in the neck and shoulders
- Pain and reduced movement in the ribs
- Pain, and tingling in the upper arms especially when you try and stretch
These symptoms arise because when we slump, the muscles of our upper back to become imbalanced. Some start to work much harder, some switch off and have a holiday; others become tight and short. In this case, the upper back, shoulder and neck muscles become overworked and tight; the muscles in the front to become tight and shorter and muscles in the front of the neck switch off and take a siesta. This imbalance has a name in the fitness world – upper cross syndrome or UCS for short.
As well as aches and pains UCS can lead to more serious conditions like hyperkyphosis (excessive rounding of the upper back). Hyperkyphosis, at its worse can cause disability, heighten the risk of fractures, restrict breathing (leading to depression and cardiovascular and/or lung disease), and is linked to early mortality. Are you sitting straighter now?
What Can We do About It?
Before we get too doom and gloom about this there are simple ways of improving things. Improving our posture is of course one of them but today I would like to focus on another; increasing our neck and shoulder mobility.
Mobility simply means that our joints can move easily through all of their range of motion without any restriction. This requires a balance in muscle strength, flexibility along with good body awareness. With greater mobility comes better posture and muscle recruitment. This equals less neck and shoulder pain.
How Do I know I If I have good Neck and Shoulder Mobility?
Try this simple test:
Neck: simply turn your head from side to side, up and down (yes) and ear to shoulder.
Ask yourself: does it hurt, are there any areas of tightness, pain etc
Shoulders: take your arms up over your head. Do you feel any restriction, areas of tightness around the arm pit area or the front of your chest?
Now try to extend them behind you (as though you were reaching for something on the back seat of your car).
Ask Yourself: How does that feel?
Now try stretching your arms out to the side at shoulder height and rotating them up and down so your palms move upwards and then backwards.
Ask Yourself: what is my range of motion. Does it feel easy or hard. Are there any area of tightness and pain?
Easy Ways of Working on Neck and Shoulder Mobility
The easiest ways, which you can start TODAY, is to simply include regular neck and shoulder mobility moves into your daily routine. Here are a few to get you going.
- Say ‘no’
- Say ‘yes’
- Drop chin to chest and then take chin in a half circle towards one shoulder, move back to the chest and then take the chin to the other shoulder.
- Bring the ear to the shoulder (not shoulder to ear) and let gravity stretch out the side of the neck
- Simply roll the shoulders forwards and then backwards
- Try shrugging the shoulders up towards your ears as you inhale and then releasing them down as you exhale (do as many repetitions as you like)
- Shoulder Flossing: take a strap or tie/belt and hold it in front of you, wider than shoulder width apart (be generous at the start – you can always narrow the hand position later). As you inhale, take the strap above your head (keeping some tension in the strap by pulling the hands apart). As you exhale, lower the strap behind your head and towards your bottom. Inhale, bring the strap back up over your head and as you exhale return to the start. Repeat several times.
Would you like to know more?
Sign up to my 5 days to better neck and shoulder mobility; for easy ways to beat shoulder and neck pain with yoga based mobility moves and fascial release. Includes plenty of tips to help you improve your upper body posture – in particular your head and shoulder alignment on and off the mat.