No matter how much we try to avoid it, we all get neck and shoulder tension from time-to-time. It is one of the most common aches and pains that we deal with, alongside headaches and migraines. Just like the saying, “carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders”, the neck and shoulders are where many of us carry our stress.
In today’s modern world, there are many contributing factors to neck and shoulder tension. The prevalence of technological devices, such as computers and cell phones, have caused a rise in tech-related aches and pains. Many of us use these devices all throughout the day, so it’s no wonder we deal with neck and shoulder tension. Tech neck, the newly-coined term for stressed muscles from using cell phones, computers and tablets, attributes to many of the aches that we feel in the neck andupper back. In fact, for every inch forward that you are leaningin towards your screens or phones, you are placing the equivalent of 10 pounds of pressure on your neck. If you’re looking down at your phone at a 60 degree angle, for example, your cervical spine is supporting 60 more pounds of pressure than it normally does. Over time, this can cause headaches, neck and shoulder tension, and neck spasms.
It also doesn’t help that many of us sit in front of a computer for several hours at a time at work. Not only that but we tend to have poor posture while doing so. This lethal combination places burden on our body, particularly our shoulders and hips, and after eight hours of sitting hunched forward, your body will definitely start to feel it. Poor posture places more pressure on our spine. Rounded shoulders, which occurs when your head is forward from your shoulders, can cause curvatures to our spine. Over time, years of poor posture can really take a toll on your upper body and cause chronic aches and pains. Left untreated, these tight muscles can lead to other health conditions including headaches, insomnia, disc herniation, poor function andweakness of the shoulders and arms and a decreased quality of life.
Neck and shoulder tension may ail you from time-to-time againbut it doesn’t have to hinder your quality of life. While these aches and pains are quite normal, it shouldn’t be chronic or prohibit you from your normal day-to-day routine. If it does, physical therapy can be very helpful in treating it. These tips below will also help you combat your neck and shoulder tensionin the meantime.
Strengthen your upper body. To fix the neck and shoulder aches, we must focus on its anatomy. Your shoulders are made of many parts which include your clavicle, humerus, scalpulaand the thoracis part of your spine. These four joints need to work together to be pain-free and to be functioning well. If you’re at a gym, look for the machine with resistance bands that you can pull towards your body. When you do this, squeeze your shoulder blades together to stretch your upper back.
Lose the Heavy Bags. Many of us New Yorkers lead very busy lives and carry packed schedules. Try to distribute the weight of the things you’re carrying and be conscious of the fact that you’ll be trekking it around all day. Many of us are unaware of the damage that the constant carrying of heavy bags can wreak on our bodies.
Incorporate desk stretches into your day-to-day routine. One stretch that is easy to do is the chin pull. To do one, you simply bring your chin down as if you’re resting it on your chest. You should be able to feel the stretch in the back of your head. Hold this for ten seconds and release. Repeat this act multiple times throughout the day. Another one that is easy to incorporate is the neck tilt. Start by tilting your head towards your right shoulderwhile looking straight ahead. You should feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold this stretch for thirty seconds and repeat this on the other side. This stretch lengthens the neck and also helps to prevent tension headaches.
Be mindful of your upper body muscles. When you go for a run, you usually stretch your legs and calves to warm them up. When you’re working your upper body muscles, you stretch your arms. Why not do the same for your neck and shoulders? If you’re looking to combat neck and shoulder tension, focus on stretching and loosening the trapezius muscles, the muscle that mobilizes and stabilizes the scapula, or shoulder blade. You also want to be mindful of stretches that target the thoracic spine and trapezius (neck).
Use a heat pack. Apply heat to your neck and shoulders with a heating pad. This will increase circulation to the area to help ease those sore muscles. If you don’t have a heat pack handy, a hot shower will also help. If you really want to tackle sore muscles, you can invest in a neck and shoulder heating pad which drapes around your upper body to provide targeted relief.
Improve your ergonomics. Let’s face it, we all deal with poor posture. To prevent desk-related aches and pains, we have to ensure that our body is properly aligned. This way, your bodyisn’t taking on the extra pressures that poor posture can have. When you sit, ensure that your shoulders are back and relaxed. You want to avoid having your shoulders rounded and up towards your ears or hunched over towards your screen. You also want to ensure that your head is aligned with your spine and not leaning forward. To encourage this, ensure your computer monitor is eye-level. Your wrists should be straight out in front of you and not scrunched. Your feet should be resting comfortably on the ground and your hips and knees should be at a 90-degree angle.
Take walking breaks. The body isn’t meant to be sedentary, especially for extended periods of time. When you have an eight-hour work day in front of a computer, that means we are stationary for much longer than our bodies would like. To combat this, take little breaks once every couple of hours. Even if you are using this break to get up and retrieve some water or to just clear your mind, the five minutes will help tremendously. Not only that, it can also give you clarity and lead to greater productivity.
While it is something we all deal with, it can be managed if you become mindful of your upper body and with proper care.