Many of us experience neck and shoulder pain every day. It can be disabling and prevent us from doing our usual day to day activities. Most of the time we manage with heat and some self-massage, but what else can we do and does this have to be something we always live with? The answer is neck and shoulder physiotherapy!
Neck and shoulder pain are often linked due to their close proximity and multiple shared muscles. Often by treating the cause of the pain, either in the neck or the shoulder, both areas can feel better. One of the first things that a physiotherapist will check for is any postural abnormalities. The most common of the postural abnormalities that will be seen is a rounded posture with weaker, over stretched muscles in the back of the neck and shoulders, and stronger, tighter muscles in the front of the shoulders. By educating on better posture habits and giving posture correction exercises, pain resulting from postural abnormalities can be helped.
Many times, posture is only one small piece of the puzzle and when this is the case, a more extensive assessment and treatment program will be needed to help recover from the injury. Common neck and shoulder injuries that cause pain in this area are:
- Sprains and strains
- Pinched nerves
- Shoulder impingement syndrome
- Frozen shoulder
- Rotator cuff tendinitis/tears
- Shoulder instability
These injuries often occur in people who have jobs that require them to sit at a desk or do overhead work all day. Being in these positions for long periods of time every day can over time lead to some of the injuries mentioned above. Other times these injuries occur due to a specific incident, like playing overhead sports or throwing activities (Baseball, Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball, Basketball, Football, Dodgeball, etc.), or being involved in a motor vehicle collision.
The good news is that improvement in symptoms can been seen from physiotherapy treatment for all of these injuries. The extent of improvement and the time needed to recover will be based on the individual case. To have a successful long term recovery with neck and shoulder physiotherapy, activity and lifestyle needs to be taken into consideration. In all cases, independent rehabilitation and exercises is the best strategy to have long term success and prevent the pain from returning. Independent rehabilitation usually involves a few exercises that should be done regularly to help build strength and range of motion. A couple effective examples are: resisted shoulder external rotation, strengthening the deep neck flexors and upper fiber traps stretch.