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  • Writer's pictureLeslie Hartman

How to reduce Shoulder and Neck pain quickly by avoiding these 7 common mistakes

More than 45% of Americans will suffer from neck pain at some point in their life and at any one moment as many as 1 in 9 people complain of neck pain and about 1 in 10 from shoulder pain. Most complain of both. Occasionally, these remain very specific and do not affect one another but both are very much affected by posture and the nerves and muscles which affect or are affected by posture of the upper portion of our bodies are shared between the two. It is very common for pain to begin in one of these areas and quickly spread to include the other. Correcting postural mistakes and doing the right things can greatly reduce

the amount of time it takes to resolve pain and can prevent recurrence of pain. Therefore the amount of time you need to stay away from the activities you love will be limited, and the amount of time you suffer doing those daily things you just have to is minimized. There isn’t a faster way to END neck and shoulder pain than by going to see a Physical therapist who specializes in treatment of these areas, and not all do. Seeing a physical therapist who is a shoulder and neck specialist, means you’re going to receive access to care and knowledge that will help you soothe and relax those tight aching muscles, loosen and lubricate stiff, stuck and painful joints, and strengthen your body so that you can go back to doing the things that you love. Combine all of the “tips” in this report with a trip to see Leslie and her team at Three Lakes Physical Therapy and you will quickly see a dramatic drop in the pain (and stiffness) you are currently limited by.

7 mistakes people with Neck and /or Shoulder pain make and how to avoid them

1. Reading, texting, playing games or watching videos on your phone for more than 20 minutes at a time.

Most people hold their cell phone or tablets in a position where they are looking down at it. This puts the head in a poor position which compresses the nerves of the cervical spine and over stresses and stretches the muscles which keep the head up in a neutral position and the shoulder blade where it should be. This can lead to pain in the neck, changes in the resting position of the shoulder blade (causing a poor starting point for the shoulder to operate) and even headaches. A similar and very common other mistake is working with a laptop at the wrong height. Screens should be set up so the center is at eye level when sitting comfortably in a supportive chair. Keyboards should be accessible with the arms resting comfortably at the sides and elbows bent comfortably to 90 degrees. If this is not achievable with your laptop using a desktop configuration may be more desirable

2. Simply sitting too long

Face it, we are just not made to sit but our jobs often force us to. Sitting leads to compression of the spinal segments and disks which leads to nerve irritation, muscle shortening and painful joint stiffness Inactivity causes its own issues. It contributes to decreased blood flow and lymphatic flow in tissues, slows healing and contributes to weakness in the postural muscles, not to mention weight gain and reduced cardiovascular fitness. All of these further contribute to pain or may lead to other injuries or problems. It is important to your physical and mental well being that you stay active. Try limiting sitting to not more than 45 minutes at a time before taking a brief break to stretch and walk around. Also use a good supportive chair to help maintain posture while you are sitting. Driving produces its own challenges as most people sit with their seat either reclined too far back or too low, forcing them to poke their chin into a compressive forward posture and arms to be held above shoulder height. Sit in an upright position as far away from the steering wheel as you can without having to lean forward to comfortably control or see over it. Again limit driving time to 45 min without a break, especially if you are in traffic which adds stress to your drive.

3. Using heat not ICE for pain

Ice has both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and can help ease your pain, without popping pills. It is the pain reduction recommendation of most physical therapists. Ice or a cold pack can be applied for 10-15 minutes directly to the painful area up to every other hour. Be careful not to apply ice directly to the skin. A thin layer between the ice and your skin should be sufficient. Heat can be used to help with stiffness but external heat has proven largely ineffective at such. The most effective way to increase temperature in a joint and decrease stiffness is to engage in movement and increase blood flow through exercise.

4. Carrying your purse or bag on 1 shoulder or in 1 hand

This one is a very common mistake that adds to neck and shoulder tension. Carrying a backpack, purse or even a shopping bag over one shoulder, means that the weight is not evenly distributed. The result is one side of your body is under more pressure than the other. (Likely to be the side you’re feeling the pain and tension on). If you carry the bag over one shoulder all the time, you could end up with a curvature of your spine and it would mean that that particular side is working too hard taking the weight of the bag every day, and certainly much harder than your other side. This would cause tension and pain, muscle imbalances, spinal compression on 1 side and not to mention a funny and unhealthy looking posture.

5. Sleeping in the wrong position or with the wrong or too many pillows or on the wrong

or a worn out mattress

Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided like the plague. It puts your neck and shoulders in a totally twisted and unnatural position and will lead to pain and stiffness. Instead sleep on your side or back with a single supportive pillow. No one pillow is right for everyone. This depends on your body size and personal preference as to firmness of support. Ideally you need to fully fill and support the curve of your neck without being too high. This is why 2 pillows usually won’t work. The extra height holds your neck in a twisted or tipped position compressing one side. Some people do find it comfortable to use a second pillow under their arm to rest a sore arm on and that’s ok. Likewise, sleeping on the wrong or a worn out mattress will not support your body contours and will lead to pain. Mattresses and pillows only last an average of 5-8 years so if yours is older it may be time for a replacement.

6. Ignoring CORE strength.

People often go to the gym but complete the same extremity workout each time. This often leads to muscle imbalances. It is vitally important to keep your core muscles all strong. These muscles affect how your posture is maintained when you sit, stand, and move. Additionally, all extremities require a stable base to move from efficiently. If the core muscles are not strong neither will be your base. This can lead to overuse injuries among the other supporters to your various joints and especially the shoulder. I very frequently see shoulder sprains and strains and even rotator cuff tears which occur because the patient spent lots of time doing heavy shoulder exercises in the gym and did not have strong scapular muscles to control the base for the arm to properly move from. Varying your activities and doing proper focused strength training and postural exercises will help ensure your body can properly mitigate the impact you put on it throughout your day and will help ensure your joints and muscles do not take more than their fair share of the stress. Physical therapists can perform a comprehensive strength evaluation and postural assessment and both let you know your individual areas of weakness and teach you the best ways to correct them.

6. Stretching improperly, not enough, or simply Not Stretching at all

It is important to stretch your feet, calf muscles and the muscles around your extremities, neck and low back at the start and end of each day. Not doing so can contribute to stiffness and a build-up of myofascial restrictions in your muscles which limit range of motion and also the ability of your muscles to absorb impact. Tight muscles can lead to postural changes . Each muscle should be stretched for a minimum of 90 seconds to achieve fiber elongation. Proper yoga participation is a great way to increase and maintain flexibility. If you have questions about how to stretch properly or have already built up significant myofascial restrictions due to improper stretching in the past, you need to see your physical therapist.

7. And one more thing… Letting it go too long

Pain is not a normal thing. If you have pain it is your body's sign to you that something is not right and needs to be addressed or changed. This is especially true if the pain just crept up versus knowing exactly what happened to cause it. If pain lasts more than a few days or these tips don’t quickly resolve it it is a sign you need some extra help to make it resolve. Additionally if you feel any numbness, burning or tingling in your arms this is a sign of nerve irritation or compression and should be addressed right away. It has been my experience that the longer someone lets shoulder or neck pain go without getting the help they need the longer it will take to correct once you do begin treatment. Contact your doctor early and ask for a referral to Physical Therapy or just call our office and we will help you get what you need.


So, there you have it, 7 things that you can do TODAY to improve your general health, and ease any Neck or Shoulder Pain that you are currently in. I could go much more in-depth than what I’ve given you here. Taking the steps outlined in this report will provide a great start.


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