By Dr. Greg Steiner
CA Acupuncture & Chiropractic
Neck and shoulder pain come in many shapes and forms. There’s the sharp & stabbing type, sometimes coming from an arthritic joint or perhaps from something as simple as bending it in the wrong direction. Sometimes it feels like it’s a grinding sort of pain and other times it feels heavy and stiff. Whether the neck pain is a muscular or pinched nerve type, it usually doesn’t originate just in the neck but the uppermost part of the back, where a lot of muscles are activated and connect. In order to be thorough and correct the problem, all these areas need to be addressed and assessed.
Oftentimes, headaches are caused by neck & shoulder issues. If the muscles in the front of the neck are spasming, it can create a headache on the side of the head. Tight trapezius and shoulder girdle areas can refer pain up the back of the head, and at the base of the skull, the deeper layer or muscles, when contracted or spasming can irritate blood vessels or nerves and produce “migraine” symptoms.
The feeling of an electrical shock or jolt running down the arm may indicate a nerve compression of some sort while a tightness or achy pain could result from a muscle strain from training at the gym.
The type of pain itself can often help identify the problem and therapies to be used for pain relief. Ice packs are great to help reduce sharp pain while a stiff pain can be helped with ice and then heat. The most effective therapy I have found is a combination of both chiropractic and acupuncture. The chiropractic adjustment can help relieve muscle tension and restore some motion on just the first visit. Subsequent visits keep increasing that range of motion, resulting in pain relief and longer term can restore proper alignment. Add in the use of electrical stimulation and infrared heat and spasms and tightness can be also be reduced. Acupuncture can also give a pretty satisfying analgesic effect by helping reduce muscle tension and inflammation.
One thing that can help reduce and prevent neck & shoulder pain is to focus on mobility and correct posture. Gentle stretching and proper movement can keep the areas flexible and lubricated. If you sit at the computer all day with your head leaning forward and hardly move, the strained position will eventually destroy the curve of the neck. Inflammation also occurs, and nothing seems to fit in the right place. The ligaments are no longer in the correct position and the front muscles start to shrink (because they are always contracted) while the back of the neck muscles are over stretched and weakened. A great deal of this can be remedied by taking breaks to gently stretch the neck & shoulders, having the computer monitor & chair at the right height, as well as sitting tall and upright with the head in alignment with the shoulders. The earlier you catch & remedy the problem, the faster you’ll see relief and following these simple suggestions can help deter that pain from the start.
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