Painful Shoulders, Necks and Heads – Getting out of the Pain Cycle
Do you frequently suffer from persistent neck pain and headaches? Have you had to learn to live with frustrating neck and back pain? You are not alone! A recently published study has shown that up to 25% of the population will suffer from persistent neck pain at some point, with 10-15% of the population suffering from neck pain at any one point.
Whilst a large percentage of the population suffer from persistent pain, including neck and headache pain, very few actively seek help. Many feel that little can be done to alleviate symptoms and help with their condition and therefore suffer in silence; with painkillers (and all their side-effects) bringing only short term relief. This is not the case!
What causes neck pain and headaches?
Neck pain can be caused by a number of factors including disc, joint, ligament, nerve or muscle pathology.
Whilst upper back, neck and headache pain can have a number of causes, and it is always wise to have yourself checked out by a health care practitioner, we frequently note that this type of pain is related to tight, over-working muscles in the back and neck. This can be down to poor postures, day-to-day stress or poor patterns of movement. This form of neck pain is often referred to as non-specific neck pain.
Prolonged poor neck and upper back postures can also cause tension type headaches, neck and shoulder pain.
Some helpful hints…
Overhead work and activity:
When painting a wall, hanging curtains or cleaning windows try to avoid reaching and looking up for prolonged periods. Use a step ladder instead and try to keep your eyes level with the job at hand.
Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time always, take regular breaks and try to maintain a “standing schedule” at work.
Sit with with your low back supported and avoid stools. If frequently reaching for objects whilst in sitting, avoid using the same hand to reach for these. Consider re-arranging your office space from time to time, you would be surprised at how many injuries are caused by repetitive strain!
An ergonomic assessment of your work-space is always a good idea, especially if you spend prolonged periods of time at your work-station.
Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach if possible. Ensure that the nape of the neck (the area between your head and shoulders) is supported by a pillow. When selecting amounts of pillows, try to avoid having your head bent forward or sagging below the neck.
Try to focus on keeping your chest lifted, shoulders relaxed and angles towards the bottom, head in line with the body (it’s great to imagine holding soft peach underneath the chin). The neck should feel long and relaxed. Try to hold yourself as tall as possible both in sitting and standing. When working on a computer, try to keep your monitor at eye-level with elbows supported.
Carrying shoulder bags:
Avoid carrying heavy loads on a single shoulder. Instead opt for distributing load over both shoulder in a rucksack. If hiking or walking for longer distances, pick a rucksack with an added chest strap to further distribute the load.
Exercise and Movement:
Movement of the neck and upper back is generally encouraged. Some conditions require specialised exercise routines and one should contact a physiotherapist for further guidance.
What can a Physiotherapist do to help?
- Perform a detailed assessment, taking a history of your symptoms and a physical examination.
- Give a diagnosis of the exact site of symptoms and the underlying causes
- Plan a treatment programme to suit your needs.
- Monitor your symptoms at each visit and will progress your treatment programme accordingly. If appropriate, your physiotherapist will liaise with your doctor, hospital consultant or other health care professional. You will be advised on return to work, sport daily activities and given advice on preventing recurrence of your pain.