Common causes of Neck and Shoulder Tension
1. Prolonged Sitting in Slouched Postures
2. Stiff middle back
With poor sitting postures the middle back (thoracic spine) becomes stiff over time which leads to relatively more movement being required in the neck when turning one’s head (as the middle back does not move as it should and take it’s share of the load). This increased relative movement leads to increased wear and tear and eventually pain and in some cases acute neck injuries (like wry-necks).
3. Sustained asymmetrical positions/postures
Neck pain can develop when people hold their phones on one side between their shoulder and ears, handbags on one side, or even lying on one’s side on the couch watching tv. The principle is if the neck is tilted or rotated or bent to one side or in an asymmetrical position for a long period of time, the small joints in the neck are strained which can lead to aching and pain.
4. Rapid and/or excessive neck movements
Activities that are asymmetrical like swimming breathing to one side, or playing the violin etc can lead to pain as imbalances develop with joints and muscles on one side becoming tight. Also if asymmetrical movements are rapid and/or excessive such as when checking your blind spot driving, or reverse parking, or washing your hair in the shower etc, this can also cause neck pain as the small joints in the neck can become ‘sprained’ like a sprained ankle.
5. Poorly supporting pillows
If one’s neck is not supported overnight by a good pillow when sleeping, the neck joints and discs can be placed in a strained position which can also lead to aching and pain and muscle tension.
The way to reduce neck and shoulder pain and tension is to avoid the above, which is outlined below.
5 Ways to prevent Neck Pain
1. Sit with good posture
Drink loads of water
This is to ensure you don’t sit for too long (as you need to go to the toilet).
Bakball to support posture
When sitting, ensure your posture is upright with your head not protruding forwards and the best way to achieve this is to sit with a BakBall in your lower back between the chair and your back.
Avoid using laptops as it is impossible for your neck to be held in a good posture, so always use a monitor with your laptop.
2. Increase the flexibility in the thoracic spine (middle back)
Use bakballs to increase the flexibility in the thoracic spine to reduce the need for all movement to occur in the neck.
3. Avoid sustained asymmetrical positions/postures
Like holding the phone in between the neck and shoulder.
4. Minimise rapid and/or excessive movements
When driving turn the entire body rather than just the neck to reverse park or check the blind spot, and when swimming aim to breathe both sides. Avoid rapid movements first thing in the morning as the neck joints tend to be stiffer and less mobile and more prone to spraining.
5. Use a good supportive pillow
I prefer using contoured pillows as they support the neck in both supine lying (on back) and also in side lying.
WIN NeckRest & BakBalls
The NeckRest and BakBall products have been endorsed by specialists in the physiotherapy industry and the Australian Physiotherapy Association has endorsed the BakBalls product. We have a set of the two strengths of Bakballs and the NeckRest to giveaway. To enter, tell us in the comments what you think has been causing your shoulder/neck tension and how these products would help you. Competition closes midnight 6 January 2016. Winners contacted via email and announced on this post.