Prominent organizations like Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic agree that the common causes of neck discomfort are posture and osteoarthritis. They both concur that osteoarthritis is the most common cause of shoulder problems. At the same time, prominent orthopedic organizations believe rotator cuff issues like tendonitis to be the most common cause.
Now you know the most common causes of neck and shoulder discomfort. Here is the good news, most of these are related to your habits. Osteoarthritis and tendonitis do not happen overnight. They occur over days, months, and years of repeated activity performed in a manner that wears and tears on the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, cartilage, etc.) and then begins to wear away the bone.
So what is the good news?
You can change your habits to slow the wear and tear in these areas. The biggest challenge is knowing what to change and how to make the changes.
A widespread piece of advice is to get stronger. Very often, this is not good advice.
Posture is a habit most people like to change.
Sally feels she has rounded or forward shoulders from working at her computer. She finds her neck is tight most of the time. Sally reads an article that advises for rounded shoulders, she must pull her shoulders down and back. The report then recommends getting stronger using this same cue while working out, especially while performing exercises like rows, chest press, pushups, etc.
After a few weeks of following the advice, Sally noticed increased neck tension and shoulder discomfort.
While the advice seemed to make sense at face value, the article misses some key things:
Your shoulders need to come forward to do work in front of you, like computer work.
The issue is not the forward shoulder. It is how you bring your shoulders forward.
Pulling your shoulders down and back while working is excessive muscle energy and engagement to use all day.
Several muscles attach our neck to our shoulders and shoulder blades. Pulling your shoulders and shoulder blades down and back takes the shoulder out of alignment and puts excessive pressure on the neck.
In this month's series, we look forward to sharing tips on the shoulders and neck, including:
Need to know anatomy of the neck and shoulders
How to create optimal posture using ideal habit change
How to decrease tension in the neck and shoulders
Exercises to create more stability and strength using an optimal alignment
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