Updated: Jul 9, 2019
Doctors estimate that seven out of ten Americans are affected by neck and shoulder pain each year.
And since your reading this article, chances are you're one of those seven.
So why is neck and shoulder pain so easy to get, and more importantly, how can I fix it? First, let’s look at the typical causes of neck and shoulder pain.
Most neck pain and even a lot of shoulder pain boils down to misalignments of the spine, also known as subluxations.
Right now you may be thinking, what in the world are those? I just did some extra chores around the house that my body isn't used to and that's why I'm sore.
Those extra chores may have led to the muscles in your neck pulling your vertebra slightly out of place or it could have put additional tension on an already out of place vertebra. This out of place vertebra is a subluxation of the spine.
This subluxation puts pressure on the soft tissues surrounding the spine and can create local pain in the neck or shoulder and sometimes down into your arm and hands. In addition, subluxations can also create neurological stress which can affects our bodies ability to function.
Common causes of spinal subluxations leading to neck and should pain are:
1. Neck and shoulder muscle over-use: Achy and sore muscles can occur from over-exertion at work, doing chores around the house, or in the gym. But you may not have known, that you can also get a sore neck and shoulder pain from emotional and mental stresses as well!
All of these items may cause muscles to tighten leading to our spinal subluxation. The muscles will heal, but the subluxation remains since nothing has been done to correct it and may cause reoccurring pain.
2. Your Posture: Most of the time, we never put a lot of thought into how we are sitting or standing. But your posture, especially if it is bad, can create subluxations which cause long term neck and shoulder pain if not corrected!
If you took a side profile picture of yourself, from shoulders up, you may be surprised at how far your head leans forward. When that happens, you are putting a lot of stress and strain on the muscles of your neck and shoulders and pulling the vertebra out of place.
Think about it like this, pretend the muscles on the back of your neck are a rubber band, the more forward our head goes over our shoulders, the farther that rubber band will be stretched.
That’s whats happening to the muscles in our neck and shoulders and it creates a constant pressure on the back of our spine causing pain and discomfort.
3. How you sleep: A poor sleeping posture can create subluxations that lead to neck and shoulder pain issues. If you are sleeping on the wrong sized pillow for your sleeping position, it can create a kink in your neck when you wake up.
Poor sleeping positions have also been known to be the cause of subluxations further down your spine causing low back pain as well.
4. Trauma: This can be from a sports injury, a fall, or a car accident. Any trauma can cause significant damage to the soft tissue of your neck, (your muscles, ligaments, discs, etc.), as well as the joints of your spine.
Traumas can also cause chronic subluxations that can create future events of neck and shoulder pain.
So how do we fix our spinal subluxations and relieve ourselves of neck and shoulder pain?
The best and most effective method is through Chiropractic care. Chiropractors are trained to move the vertebra into the correct placement thus removing the subluxation. In addition, Chiropractors perform soft tissue rehabilitation which retrains the tissue and muscles around the subluxation in order to hold the correct vertebra position.
While Chiropractic treatment works to fix the root cause, there are a few other treatments that work well in addition to Chiropractic, however, used on their own, they are only temporary fixes.
Stretching: Light stretching can keep shoulder and neck pain at bay and makes your muscles limber so that they do not get injured in the future. Here are some daily neck and shoulder stretches you can do at home or in the office!
Roll your shoulders backwards and down 10 times
Squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times
Push your head backwards into your car head rest or hands and hold for 30 seconds
Bring your ear to your shoulder 10 times on each side
Posture improvements: Changing your posture can be a long-term goal so take small daily steps into improving your posture! Start by paying more attention to where your head is in relation to your shoulders.
Looking at your side profile, your ears should be right over your shoulders.
If they are not, focus on bringing your head and neck, back over your shoulders. Try this daily exercise to bring your head and neck back over your shoulders:
Place your back on a wall with the back of your hands on the wall. Start by tucking your chin and giving yourself a double chin. Hold this chin tuck for 2 seconds at a time. Repeat this exercise for a 10 repetition set, and perform two to three sets a day.
Sleep posture changes: Sleeping positions have long been debated over which position is the best for the health of our spines. The short answer is, it depends on which direction you like to sleep.
Back Sleeper - then you should find a thinner pillow so it doesn’t arch your neck forward. Also place a pillow under your knees to aid in less lower back strain.
Side Sleeper - then it is important that you first get a thick enough pillow that it is the same height as the length from your shoulder to your ear. This keeps the neck from being bent to either shoulder. Place a pillow in between your knees to keep from any hip strain.
Stomach Sleeper - ……….please don’t. In all seriousness though, sleeping on your stomach causes you to have to rotate your neck to one side or the other and places a large amount of strain at the base of your neck and skull. If you are a die-hard stomach sleeper then I suggest you to place a pillow below you abdomen to take stress off the lower back and either use a thin pillow for your head or no pillow at all.
Rehabilitation Exercises and Stretches - are a must. If you are in rehab from an trauma injury, use the exercises proscribed by a trained professional.
In conclusion, a high percentage of neck and shoulder pain can be caused by subluxations of the spine. While the muscles will heal, if the subluxation is never corrected, the pain will continue to return. The best and most effective way to fix the cause of your neck and shoulder pain is to visit a chiropractor who can work with you to fix the root cause of your discomfort.
If you are ready to get out of pain and back to spending more quality time with your family, and favorite activities, click the link below to schedule an appointment!
Reach Health and Wellness Chiropractic is located in the Chattanooga, Tennessee area specifically in Collegedale, TN, a short distance from Ooltewah, Cleveland, East Brainerd, East Ridge, Ringgold, Apison, and Harrison.
Dr. Ryan Lee is the practicing chiropractic physician at Reach Health and Wellness Chiropractic. For his full bio, click here.
*This content is strictly the opinion of Dr. Ryan Lee and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Dr. Lee does not take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.