If you suffer from neck and/or shoulder pain, then you already know how debilitating it can be. Not only can it steal your joy, but it can severely decrease your mobility and energy levels. You may be asking yourself why you’re suffering with the agonising, daily pain related to neck and shoulder issues, but I can assure you that you’re not alone and that there is a way out of it.
We have treated many individuals with similar issue and most managed to recover apart from a few exceptions. What’s more, most of them lead active, healthy, happy lives now! So, there really is hope.
This blog will explain the most common causes of neck pain and shoulder pain and how to manage your symptoms, particularly to prevent ongoing chronic pain. Remember, knowledge is power! Let’s get straight to it.
The neck is composed of 7 bones known as vertebrae – these bones make up the cervical spine. Other supporting structures include discs, ligaments, and tendons, all of which work together to make up the neck. The amount of receptors and nerves in the neck is overwhelming – so it really isn’t surprising that you may be experiencing pain, here. Everything is connected – from your neck, to your shoulders, and even down into your spine.
The main function of the neck is to support the head and to protect the spinal cord, whilst all the while facilitating movement. In between the vertebrae are discs which act as shock absorbers to absorb impact so as to protect the skeletal structure. The muscles and strong ligaments keep the neck upright and protect the spinal cord at the same time.
And all these intricate structure still allow for what is arguably the most dynamic area of your body: the neck is very flexible so as to allow the head to move. And yet, all this precision lays bare the very real potential for serious injury: trauma, overuse, injury, wear and tear, and sudden impacts can all cause problems in neck.
There’re many causes of neck injuries, from muscle strain, poor sleep hygiene, whiplash injuries from road traffic accidents, and ligaments and vertebrae damage, all the way through to simple careless movement. On the other hand, neck problems may be due to general wear and tear and underlying conditions such as osteoarthritis. It is worth knowing that while neck pain can be sudden and unexpected, it can also develop slowly, over time.
Neck tension can slowly build up overtime or come on suddenly if the neck muscles are strained resulting in neck stiffness, spasms and tightness. Here are some of the typical causes of neck tension reported by many clients who visit T4 Physio clinic that you need to be aware of and avoid them to minimise ongoing neck tension.
The most common one is poor posture caused by the head pocking forward and the shoulder rounding forwards results in misalignment of the spine thus causing tension as the neck muscles are forced to work extra hard. Teeth grinding is when you grind or clench your teeth resulting in neck and jaw tension.
Repetitive motion or sustained poor neck posture required in some occupations can also result in neck tension. Last but not least is high stress levels increase neck tension due to release of stress hormone called cortisone which causes involuntary muscle contraction.
At times you might find holding your shoulders up close to your ears due to stress which in turn creates tension and trigger points on top of the shoulders. One of the questions we get asked in the clinic is “what is a trigger point?”. Well, the answer is that a trigger points is sensitive spot found in the muscle tissue that can cause pain to another area of the body known as referred pain.
Typical areas that trigger points like to hide is in the neck and although there no clear cause identified, stress and repetitive muscle usage is strongly linked to trigger points. One of the most common manifestations of trigger points we see in many patients is the development of tension headaches as the nodule of the muscle fiber hardens thus causing a radiation of pain towards the head.
Migraines are slightly different to headaches in that they occur when you have a headache on one side only – these can be so painful that they can debilitate you for days if you’re not careful. Common causes of headaches themselves include stress, neck tension, inadequate sleep, allergies, sinus, and binge drinking alcohol to name but a few.
The one cause that we want to focus on – one that we frequently see at here at T4 Physio – is related to stress. These headaches, known as stress-tension headache, are caused by our reactions to personal issues, money worries, and job stress, for example. All of these worries cause the stress hormone, namely cortisol, to be released.
In some cases the release of cortisol is good, as it increases the blood sugar levels in the bloodstream and improves brain function. All sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, the downside is that the constant release of cortisol for prolonged periods can cause issues like headaches and a comprised immune system. As such, your stress needs to be mitigates accordingly. Chronic stress can result in neck tension, thereby triggering headaches which can often leave you debilitated.
If you are in pain right now, and want more than just advise, arrange a FREE taster consultation where you can speak to one of our Physios and see if we can help you with your pain and get you on the road to recovery!
Call us on 033017 59838 and speak to our team to arrange a FREE assessment