11 Tips to Prevent Shoulder and Neck Pain
1 Good posture – Good posture is everything! We are all guilty of having lazy posture. My number one tip is - Don’t Slump!
2 Even Shoulders – Our posture is affected by our work and play. We all naturally use our dominant hand when doing activities throughout the day - when on computers, participating in sports and activities around home (cleaning, maintenance and gardening). Make use of your opposite hand whenever possible. But don’t while chopping veggies - you don’t want to lose a finger! Using your opposite side will even up spinal muscle tone. If your shoulders are uneven, the muscles connecting the shoulder blade to the neck will not be pulling evenly – potentially creating shoulder, neck pain and headaches.
3 Don’t reach for the mouse – while using a computer. (This is really the same as tip 2, but needs to be reinforced). Reaching your hand forward with the mouse will pull on that side of the neck. This will change the position of the shoulder blade so that the shoulder will be vulnerable to rotator cuff tendon injuries, frozen shoulder, and arthritis. Reaching can create and exacerbate nerve injuries, by increasing tension on nerves that go down the arm. In particular carpal tunnel syndrome, nerve root conditions affected by neck discs or arthritic changes will all be made worse by reaching forwards for prolonged periods.
4 Don’t round your shoulders - Keep your spine between the shoulder blades straight. A straight position need not be extreme like “military posture” and arching backwards. Rounding your shoulders and thoracic spine will place your shoulders into positions that create injury as talked about in tip number 3.
5 Keep your chin tucked in – A good chin position aligns neck vertebrae and limits headaches. The key is not to slump your shoulders forward. If you are upright, the chin will tuck in more easily.
6 Take care with stretching the shoulder joint. Don’t’ stretch the shoulder joint backwards into corners, doorways or behind your back. This is often done to stretch the tight chest muscles or a stiff thoracic spine. Unfortunately this stretch also makes the ligaments at the front of the shoulder too loose, which can lead to imbalances and shoulder injuries.
7 Don’t stretch your neck if you feel stiff. This is often caused by joint stiffness or malalignment that we can help with in the clinic. In particular, stretching your neck to the side can create increased laxity of the neck vertebrae and can lead to degeneration neck disc conditions like bulging and prolapse. Keep in mind if you stretch the whole neck and you have a few unstable levels (ie they are already too loose) you could be starting to overload the discs. Speak to your Physio if you feel the need to stretch your neck as it needs to be intentional and controlled.
8 Keep your neck straight. Don’t keep your neck rotated (turned) for prolonged periods while sleeping or upright. Do not sleep on your stomach! Doing this will create joint problems in the neck.
9 Use backpacks rather than shoulder bags. If you must use a shoulder bag – change sides often. You want to load your neck and shoulders symmetrically.
10 My personal favourite for posture practice is to sit upright on a large physio ball - much better than the couch for watching TV. If you haven’t got a ball – use an upright dining chair. Sitting upright will aid core stability and thus help your neck and shoulders.
11 Don’t look down while reading – books, tablets or phones! This is terrible for the neck. Make use of a book/tablet stand or hold your book/tablet up at an angle.
Director and Principle Physiotherapist
Physiotherapy can help with treatment, massage, mobilization, exercise and postural advice specific to your shoulder and/or neck pain. Make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists at BIM Balnarring for a Free Initial Assessment BOOK NOW
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions on how we can help you with shoulder and neck pain.