WorkSTEPS Founder and CEO Larry Feeler on Neck and Shoulder Pain
Neck and shoulder pain are common because the head weighs 20-25 lbs and we typically maintain an upright posture for over 16 hours per day!! If you play or work at a computer or sit more than a couple of hours per day, you are MORE likely to hold the head in front of your spine, stressing the joints and ligaments. If you have ever been injured and torn muscles or ligaments in the neck, you are more susceptible to chronic pain than someone who hasn’t, AND as you age, the discs of the neck (the shock absorbers) between each vertebrae become more like a dry sponge rather than a wet one and the joints then have to bear more weight and become arthritic.
Neck-shoulder tension is a MAJOR reason patients seek chiropractic care and or are referred to physical therapy. Chiropractors pop and/or push on the neck to manipulate the vertebra and help relieve tension, and if patients feel better and get relief, such treatment is appropriate. If patients later experience different symptoms – especially arm pain – such treatment is NOT recommended. Physical therapists are the rehabilitation specialists whose expertise patients should seek for neck conditions. Therapists do not typically do forceful manipulations, instead focusing on muscle spasms and decreased neck motion. Physical therapists often also specifically mobilize segments that are limiting motion. Therapists equip patients with the knowledge of how to mobilize themselves and work on condition at home. Both professions SHOULD teach postural exercises that increase blood flow to those painful shoulder areas and keep that 25 pounds centered over the spine instead of in front where it causes extreme stress that can even affect the nerves in the neck.