The area of the spine most affecting the neck and shoulders is known as the cervical spine. It is made up of seven small, highly mobile bones, plus attaching ligaments, muscles and shock-absorbing discs. This complexity means the cervical spine is very susceptible to injury and degeneration, which leads to neck and shoulder pain.
Day after day, you are slumped in front of a computer, your phone or the TV. Sometimes you barely notice the ache which spreads from your neck down into your shoulders. Other times the pain is sharp, and you bend your body into it, which unfortunately just makes matters worse.
Sound familiar? Today’s sedentary lifestyle means that many of us do not get enough exercise and instead spending hours sitting in front of a screen with varying degrees of poor posture. It’s no wonder that tension builds in the neck and shoulders. Add this to awkward sleeping positions, stress and muscle strain from over exertion, is it any surprise our neck and shoulders are screaming out for attention?
Neck and shoulder pain generally worsens if left untreated. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take every day to relieve tension and prevent further injury.
o Improve your posture
Poor posture is key to reducing neck and shoulder pain. When sitting before a computer, sit square at your desk with your bottom firmly pressed into the back of the chair. Keep the screen at eye level and consider using a rolled-up towel behind the small of your back to make you sit more upright. When standing, hold your chest up and out with your shoulders back and imagine the crown of your head is being pulled upwards by a string.
Gently stretch several times a day. A simple and effective stretch for the neck is to pull each ear towards its closest corresponding shoulder and hold for several seconds. Another recommended stretch is to slowly turn your head as far as you can to look over each shoulder. Do not push yourself to the point of pain, instead take each stretch slowly and remember to breathe.
o Keep your neck warm
Wear a scarf or use a hot wheat pack. Warmth relaxes the muscles and helps to relieve pain. A hot shower or bath is also good for pain relief.
Take magnesium supplements or, better still, add more foods with magnesium into your diet. Magnesium helps maintain muscle and nerve function, reducing muscle pain. Foods high in magnesium include whole wheat, spinach, quinoa, almonds, cashews, peanuts, dark chocolate, black beans, edamame beans, avocado, tofu and cultured yoghurt.
Massage is proven as a highly effective tool in combating neck and shoulder pain by releasing tension and improving blood flow. Not only can massage help relieve pain, it is an effective preventative measure, stopping a small niggle from becoming more problematic.