Neck (or cervical spine) pain is one of the most common problems seen within the general population. In fact, odds are either you or the person beside you has had neck pain at some stage. Neck pain varies person to person, some have dull aching muscles and others may feel pinching sensations from their joints.
So why does neck pain happen?
- Neck pain can occur for a variety of reasons and not everybody is the same, so here are a couple of reasons as to why you might be sore
- Posture – not even focusing on ‘bad’ posture in particular, but more the not moving from one position from hours on end, this will cause fatigue and stiffness in muscles and joints
- Sometimes it can be from exercise, lifting heavy things in the gym, undertaking new exercise without proper technique, the result of a crunching tackle from footy on the weekend
- Repetitive strain injuries – from such things as work (hairdressing, desk work etc) swimming and tennis.
What are some common injuries that we see in the neck?
- The neck is a complex structure which function intertwines with our upper back and shoulders, so we see a multitude of injuries and damaged tissues, including but not limited to
- Facet sprains – small joints in our spine get stuck or over stretches causing pinching and locking sensations
- Soreness through large muscles groups – most commonly felt in the traps and pecs, often from being stationary in periods of over stretched or contracted – sitting at a desk for hours and hours on end
- Headaches – one of the most common sensations from neck pain, this can be from multiple causes such as muscle and joint restriction.
- Shoulder pain – although technically not pain in the neck but can be a direct result of neck injury or compensation. This can be lack of movement, pain reaching overhead or even tendon problems
- Pain down the arms – Often this is direct referral from the neck, the pain is often hard to describe or can feel like pins and needles or weakness. If there was no specific injury to the arm (ie strained muscle) there is a fair chance the discomfort is caused by injury elsewhere.
So, what can you do about your neck pain? At Sports and Spinal Albury, we’ve put together 3 simple exercises that may help relieve tightness and discomfort through the neck and shoulders. But please come in and get your pain assessed if there is discomfort or you’re unsure on whether these exercises are right for you.
The Theraband Clock
This exercise is designed to strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades and your posterior shoulder muscles, by doing this we’re helping our core postural strength, and by doing this we improve our daily posture as well as taking the pressure off our pecs and traps. This exercise can easily be done throughout the day and help reduce your discomfort sitting at that desk day in day out.
How do I it?
- In a standing position, stand up nice and tall and roll your shoulders back. From here hold the band at tension in front of your body
- Trying to keep your elbows locked, I want you to pull the band apart, really focusing on trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together to make the movement happen.
- When you’ve mastered the coordination aspect of this then start to move your hands in positions like opposing numbers on a clock. 2 and 8, 1 and 7, 4 and 10, 5 and 11. This will challenge more muscles controlling your shoulders and neck.
- It is important to do the exercise in a slow and controlled manor in order to get the most out of it!
- There is no set number of times to do the exercise, but often 1-2 ‘laps’ of the clock will take about 60 seconds and provide you with some relief.
Thoracic Towel stretch
Granted not an exercise that will often be easy to perform at the workplace, but it’s a great way to start your day and a great way to stretch and relax those tight and shortened muscles at the end of the day.
How do I do it?
- By simply folding up a towel into four and then rolling it up (like shown above)
- Place the towel long ways up the center of the spine – with the top just below the base of your neck. rest your head on a pillow whilst doing this
- Whilst laying over the towel lift your arms up by your side to open up your thoracic spine
- Whilst holding this position take a few deep breaths and try your best to relax
- If you have the time hold this position for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, as long as the position doesn’t aggravate any discomfort
One of my all-time favourite exercises. Designed to stretch those large and tight trap muscles which are so commonly tight and sore, a potential cause of headaches. This can help improve neck range of motion and decrease particularly that end of shift soreness.
How do I do it?
- With the arm of the side you’re wanting to stretch; grab onto something stable and stationary (i.e. a desk/chair bed frame) that’s approximately waste height – this is designed to keep your shoulder still so we can get a good stretch!
- With your other hand gently pull your head AWAY from the arm locked onto the desk, and then gently pull your head forwards, this should give you a good stretch through the traps and potentially other muscles at the same time.
- The great thing about this stretch is you can change how far you pull in each direction to achieve stretch in a different part of the muscle, today you might need to pull your head to the side more and tomorrow you might need to pull your head forward more.
- Hold this stretch for at least 20-30 seconds to achieve the desired result.
As with any musculoskeletal pain it is beneficial to get it looked at by one of our amazing osteopaths sooner rather than later. We can assess the cause of pain, help you find ways to manage it and help prevent any future flare ups.