January 5, 2022

Neck and shoulder pain

Presently being in the 21st century, you are reading this on some digital device (ie. computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone). Technology has advanced so quickly that it has embedded itself into our personal and professional lives. We consume more tech than ever when we study, work, or spend our leisure time. Our life expectancy for the most part, has also increased as well, however, that did NOT lead to increase in duration regarding quality of life1. Our bodies, however, have not been able to adapt and evolve fast enough to keep up with the exponential growth of technology.

Longer life expectancy combined with increased repetitive use of technology has been a contributor to people who experience neck and/or shoulder pain.

“Posture doesn’t matter until it matters”- C. Frank 

From a physiological standpoint, the body adapts to any form of stimulus that it is given. If done over and over again, progressive changes begin to occur - the adaptation is inevitable. Most people tend to experience their pain or symptoms due to a combination of constant sustained postures and repetitive movements. 

Let’s compare the two positions in the picture below.  Contrary to popular belief, in general context, neither position is inherently bad for you- it depends. For example, if you moved from the person pictured to the left and copied the person on the right, you would not expect to get hurt or injured, because you could simply readjust and move back to the position like the person on the left. The problem typically occurs is having the inability to move in AND out of these positions will leave you with potentially greater chance for some neck and or shoulder issue. However, it may not guarantee that you have any pain or injury, until posture may matter. In this situation, certain specific connective tissue, whether it is joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, or nerves are potentially aggravated causing your symptoms and typically change when one moves away from the person on the right to more of a position like the person on the left. Someone may experience relief by doing this during the early stages of irritation. The main key to feeling better is…drum roll...movement! Movement creates stretching and shortening of all your connective tissues, which allows for increased blood flow and nutrient exchange. That increase in blood flow is what allows for healing to occur at a more optimal rate. 

The take home message is motion is lotion. You WANT to be able to have the ability to move into and out of every position!

Why am I likely to have irritation from both my neck and shoulders?

In short, everything is connected.

There are many interconnections between the neck and shoulder region consisting of connective tissues including skin, fascia, muscle, tendons, ligaments to name a few. In the picture below from the back view of the neck and shoulders, one can appreciate the connections of muscles between the neck and shoulder blade (ie. how your shoulder blade moves is a key helper with your neck and shoulders). 

Admiring a few of the muscular connections between the neck and shoulders in the picture, it is common that a shoulder injury may have some neck involvement and vice versa. That being said, using movements to help you move back into the opposite direction you find yourself hanging out in for a long period of time, may be one of the best strategies you can apply in your daily life to age well, maintain function, and enjoy a long quality of life well into the golden years of your life.

Believe it or not, it IS very possible. The choices you make in your life (aside from genetics) can strongly determine longevity and quality of life with less pain and increased ability to allow your body to function the way you want to live your life. We only get one body and cannot sell ours to buy another one like a car. Just some food for thought.

And remember, move more and feel better.

For more information, visit: https://www.masperformancephysio.com

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