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We’ve spoken in depth about how we can help different types of back pain, but it’s also very common to experience shoulder pain in combination with upper back or neck pain. Poor posture over time, or lack of awareness of the position of your neck can all have a major part to play in if you experience frequent bouts of neck stiffness, shoulder stiffness, shoulder pain or headaches. Since our body’s muscles, bones and nerves are all interconnected, it makes sense that if you injure one area that you may begin to experience symptoms ranging from pain, weakness, numbness or even burning into other areas of the body. This is the reason why disc issues in the neck can often affect the arms, hands and fingers. As a result, it’s common to experience symptoms extending into the shoulders, across the top or as far down as the middle of the shoulder blades.

The first step in treating an issue that’s affecting the neck and shoulders, is to find out exactly what has caused the pain to begin. As mentioned previously, for a lot of patients this can be down to poor awareness of posture that has been ongoing for a number of weeks, months and years. Experiencing the odd stiffness in the shoulders can be quite normal if you work in a desk job, but if you’re having it regularly it’s a sign that something is not quite right and will likely continue to keep coming back and keep getting worse.

Poor Posture Causing Neck & Shoulder Pain

If you do work in a desk job, take a look at your posture on a daily basis and notice, do you start the day off sitting upright and straight but by 4pm you’re slumping in your chair? Do you find yourself having to look up at your computer screen or look down at a laptop screen all day? Do you frequently check your phone or spend time looking down at your phone screen during the day – either at work or on your commute? If you answered yes to any of these, look at your home life too and notice if you’re doing the same things at home. Proper posture at work should be sitting with both feet on the ground, shoulders back with your neck and head in a neutral position looking forward. If you’re leaning forward, slouching in your chair or looking up or down at a screen, this can put a lot of pressure on the neck as the weight of the head is bearing down on it in an abnormal position. Hunching your shoulders and adopting a ‘tech neck’ can lead to some uncomfortable shoulder stiffness as poor posture will increase the strain on muscles. Over time, the muscles will adapt by becoming shorter or longer, but will then become imbalanced causing fatigue to set in much quicker, weakness, and pain.

Correcting Your Posture

If you find yourself experiencing just the once-every-so-often type of pain or stiffness in the shoulders, it might be best that you try to correct your posture and see if that alone will fix the problem. Remember to check in with yourself regularly during the day to correct your posture if you’re someone that finds their posture slipping over time. You will find that as your muscles regain their strength that it will become more second nature to keep good posture. You may find it difficult in the beginning to hold correct posture as your muscles may fatigue quicker, and you can even find it painful, but with a little persistence you should become better at holding the correct position much quickly.

‘Tech Neck’ 

If ‘tech neck’ is your weakness, consider buying an inexpensive device called a pop-socket, to attach on the back of your phone. This will allow you to hold it up to your eye-level much easier and avoid looking down at your phone. Beginning to have an awareness of your posture, not staying so long in front of a computer or sat watching Netflix in bed, will really help to decrease the tension coming down through the neck and shoulders. If the pain has only started over the last couple of days and you do go to the gym, it could be just from overworking the muscles. For that kind of pain, a little bit of heat on the muscles should help, but if the problem is ongoing for longer than a week to 10 days then it’s definitely worth further investigating.

The Examination Process

Our process starts with a thorough examination. For most patients suffering with back, neck or shoulder pain, having an extended time with a practitioner to assess their condition completely is likely something that they haven’t experienced before. We will then take X-rays if the examination has found it clinically relevant, which will be analysed independently by radiologists as well as in-house using our specialist software that takes into account all the angles and curves in your spine, and compares them against what a healthy spine looks like. A treatment will also be done on the day of your initial consultation in order to help relieve some of the symptoms you’re experiencing, and the consultant may also advise things you can do outside of the clinic that will help you with your pain levels until your next appointment with us.

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Heat vs. Ice Therapy 

While using heat can be beneficial on muscular issues, if it’s a mechanical issue in the neck using ice can be much more beneficial. Using ice needs repeated applications to deal with deeper inflammation. Applications of ice repeatedly over a few days 3-6 times a day for no more than 5 minutes at a time, should help to calm down inflammation. We see people with debilitating neck pain regularly at the clinic, many who use heat therapy to try to help, but while it may feel soothing at the time it may be causing more inflammation. If you’re currently using heat therapy and it’s a mechanical issue with your spine, take a look at how much pain you’re feeling afterwards – is the heat helping or is it providing solely short term relief? If it’s only providing you short term relief, try using an ice pack instead covered in a towel to avoid burning the skin.

Seeking treatment for a problem in the spine when it first occurs is almost certainly the easiest way to ‘nip it in the bud’ as most people can make adjustments to their life, have a couple of sessions of treatment, and will find that resolves their pain and identified the problem swiftly. Leaving back or neck pain for too long can cause it to snowball, so instead of experiencing pain perhaps once every couple of weeks or months, it could now be ongoing for days, weeks, months or even years. Visit a professional who is specialised in back and neck injuries, who will be able to get to the bottom of your specific issue. A proper examination may involve imaging depending on the symptoms you’re experiencing, and they should also be able to formulate a targeted strategy to actually treat your neck as well as educate you with exercises and lifestyle changes. If you’re based in London, you can call us on 0203 947 3222 or email us at info@themayfairclinic.com to book in your initial consultation – this will involve a thorough examination, any scans if you need them, a treatment on your first visit along with independent radiology and any clinical reports.