3 Secrets to Eliminate Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck and shoulder pain are never any fun! In fact, it is the 8th leading cause for disability in the United States and 4th in the world. If the head is not held in the correct postural position, then it exerts about 3.6 times more force than it takes to stand upright with good posture.  With the human head weighing about 10 pounds, it means at least 36 pounds of force is required to hold position to the otherwise 10 pounds in good upright positioning. Additionally, neck and shoulder pain account for roughly 10 million medical care visits every year, and growing!

It’s no wonder that neck and shoulder pain are so problematic to so many people around the world. Neck and shoulder pain are often one of those things you never think about until you have the pain and suffer for weeks, even months, before deciding to do something to make it better.

This article will discuss 3 secret strategies to eliminate that neck and shoulder pain. It will explain what you can do and why each is so important for your neck and shoulder health.

1. Posture

This is something you have probably had your parents harp on you about since you were a teenager… but it takes so much work! It requires effort, consciously and subconsciously. Why do I say that?  Because posture is how you carry yourself throughout your day. It does not have to be perfect all the time, but it should be for a large part of your day. Even as a physical therapist, I admittedly do not have great posture 100% of my day. Rest assured that when I’m working with clients, my posture is pretty good, but that might change when I get home after a long day. That sofa is so comfortable to rest on and relax.

So why posture? Poor posture puts unnecessary stress on both the neck and the shoulder. Have you ever felt that tightness on top of your shoulders after a long, stressful day at work? It could be related to your stress, but likely also due to how you position yourself throughout the day. It causes some muscles to get tight (chest and upper neck muscles) and causes others to be strained and elongated (like your front neck muscles and shoulder blade muscles). I use the analogy of holding a bowling ball in your hands. If I asked you to hold it for 8 hours with both hands, how would you hold it? Probably with two hands as close to your body as possible. Pretend your head is that bowling ball… So, throughout your day, your head should be a close to your body vertically as possible. This reduces the stress to the areas of your shoulder and neck, along with improving muscle function and strength.

2. Sit to Stand Workstation

These have been gaining popularity because they have been shown to reduce strain on your back, neck and shoulders. We often get the question “Do they work?” The easy answer is certainly “YES,” but let’s not take the easy route here. Sit to stand stations are easy to use, can improve your productivity, have increased health benefits and can decrease stress to your body related to sitting for a large part of your day. The other consideration is that now you will be standing more, which can put more stress on your feet and legs. If you are not used to standing 8+ hours a day, it will certainly stress your body in a way it hasn’t had in a long time. But you can get used to this by gradually building this time up over several weeks. In either case, as humans, we are not really made to be stationary. So, I would say you do not want to stand or sit the entire workday. Rather, you should be moving around!

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3. Get Moving

I always say, “Motion is lotion!” and “He, who rests, rots.” These are easy for clients to remember, but resonate with some truth. But you might be asking yourself, why will moving eliminate my neck and shoulder pain? I’m glad you are thinking that because movement provides so many health benefits. Movement lubricates your joints and uses our muscles and tendons. It provides you with improved muscle coordination and increases metabolic activity (burns calories). It increases bone mineral density. It can get you outside (get your vitamin D fix) and doesn’t need any equipment. It can provide a small endorphin release, which will make you feel better. The only excuse you need is the time to do it. I recommend that you do 10-15 minute walks a few times a day, so that you get 30-45 minutes of movement. And bring a buddy with you to hold you accountable. So, schedule yourself the time to make yourself feel better and get healthier. Your body will thank you!

Summary

So, you now have 3 easy to do secrets to eliminate neck and shoulder pain. Try adding one of these to yourself each week. This way you are more likely to execute and actually form a good habit. Now, it’s no silver bullet and if you are currently experiencing neck and shoulder pain, these should help you into the right direction. If you try these and they help, but you still have some concerns, then do yourself a favor and call a physical therapist to do a formal assessment. They will then develop a plan specific to your needs and goals. So, pay attention to your posture and get moving!

To your health,

Dr. Chris Ingstad, DPT, OCS, MTC, ATC, FAAOMPT

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Chris Ingstad, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, ATC, FAAOMPT

Chris Ingstad, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, ATC, FAAOMPT

Dr. Chris Ingstad is a nationally-known Physical Therapist and Co-Founder of North County San Diego’s Leading Specialist Private Physical Therapy and Human Performance Practice for People in their 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, who value their health and want to remain active.

You might know Dr. Chris as a National Conference presenter on various rehabilitation topics, including on treating people with shoulder, neck and low back injuries. He also teaches at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in the Musculoskeletal track, where he brings clinical practice into the classroom for future physical therapists. He also is published in Jiu Jitsu Magazine and Coastal Newspaper on various areas, including low back and neck and shoulder injuries.

Dr. Chris’ background included working extensively with athletes with shoulder, knee and low back injuries, taking them from post-injury or post-operative to return to sport. He prides himself on the ability to get positive outcomes, even with difficult cases. Level4 Physio-Wellness-Performance is now a large multi-physical therapy specialty practice in Carlsbad, CA. 
Chris Ingstad, PT, DPT, OCS, MTC, ATC, FAAOMPT

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