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Avoiding neck and shoulder pain

By Rob Benhuri - Apr 15, 2015 7:24:00 PM

Boulder_on_shoulder_laptopNeck and shoulder pain is more and more common these days. And the two are so intertwined that it's sometimes difficult to tell which muscles are causing that stiffness and soreness.

That's because of the closeness of the neck's levator scapula muscle connecting the neck and shoulder. This muscle is at the back of the neck extending to the sides and is controlled by the cervical nerves.

Chances are, if you have a stiff neck, it's because the levator scapula is strained, or even sprained. And because the nerves in the spine and shoulders are so close, they can create "referred pain": pain that's difficult to pinpoint.

You can blame modern life for much of your neck and shoulder stiffness. Working at the computer for long periods of time can cause it, especially if you're holding your head at an angle to view the monitor.

Many people get so involved in their work that they aren't aware of how many hours have passed since they last moved. A good way to avoid this is to set a timer for every ten or fifteen minutes to let you know it's time to get up and stretch. Or try a "turtle" movement: shrug your shoulders up towards your ears and hold for a few moments, breathe in, then slowly release as you breathe out.

Holding your phone between your neck and shoulder is asking for trouble! Use your hands to hold the phone, or use a headset or earbuds.

And yes -- that old villain, everyday stress, can be a factor in neck and shoulder pain. Take several short breaks a day to do some deep breathing, letting the stress drain away while you breathe out.

Fortunately, the neck and shoulders are amazingly resilient. But chronic neck and shoulder pain that limits your movements can be indicators of something serious. In that case always get medical advice.

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