Loss of muscle flexibility, joint mobility, decreased strength & movement together with poor posture may add to your neck & shoulder problems. This self-care tip sheet is written to provide you with some things to consider as you get back to enjoying your favorite activities in a more comfortable way. To have a healthier neck, you need to embrace a health & wellness approach to symptom reduction.
Your neck & shoulder areas are composed of muscles, ligaments, nerves, vertebrae & discs. Part of the physiotherapist’s role is to help you understand how these various parts work together.
Poor head carriage & shoulder posture influences how good or bad your neck feels. Good posture keeps everything balanced & reduces stress on various structures. Forward head posture (poking chin) increases tension in your neck & upper back. When your head is sitting forward, it cannot be supported by your neck spine & upper back. And your muscles tire & don’t work together in a balanced manner. A specific neck, shoulder & upper back physiotherapy exercise program can be developed for you by your physiotherapist.
When sleeping, your head & neck need to be properly supported. No one pillow is suitable for everyone. When sleeping on your back, try one of the following:
1. A cradle, butterfly pillow or cervical roll.
2- Two pillows—one under your head & shoulders & the top one just under the head.
3- Add a small pillow or roll under your knees
4- Place folded towels under each elbow for arm support.
Do you sleep on your side? Place the pillow so you support both the skull & your neck. Add a smaller pillow on top to just support the skull. Your pillow(s) should not push your head sideways.
Working over a workstation, at a computer, sitting in a motor vehicle or simply lounging at leisure using your phone or tablet still requires you pay attention to your posture. Chair design, the car seat or workstation (ergonomics) can influence your head carriage just as much as how you position yourself to do the activity.
Some tips are:
1-Learn how to arrange your computer or work station to your biomechanical advantage
2- Place a towel, roll or small pillow behind your low back. A supported lower back does influence your neck posture when sitting.
3.-Place your work so you avoid extreme neck positions, change postures frequently & avoid a prolonged backward tilt of your head.
4- You can support your arms while watching TV, reading or performing some kinds of handiwork.
5- Avoid carrying heavier bags, luggage or packages using one arm.
6- Stress can aggravate a sore neck. Find a general relaxation or leisure activity that relaxes you, expands & deepens your breathing & provides a sense you are adding to your quality of life.
More about physiotherapy
A physiotherapist, sometimes referred to as a physio, PT or physical therapist, is trained in the movement sciences. Physiotherapy has been proven effective in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment & management of acute & chronic conditions, education regarding the prevention of injury & disability & in promoting health & well-being. Ours is a collaborative approach & the physio takes into consideration your personal goals & seeks to implement a personalized treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Physiotherapy can help with more than postural reeducation, muscle strengthening & educational information. A variety of treatment approaches are available. They include hands-on/mobilization techniques & modalities such as laser, ultrasound and TENS.
Physios offer treatments to patients with injuries of many kinds. For example, rehabilitation after surgery, fractures, car accidents & athletic injuries. Treatments for “pinched nerve” & sciatica; overuse injuries, tendonitis, neck/back pain & frozen shoulder is but a partial list of what a physio can address.
For a more detailed information, you can refer to the Ontario Physiotherapy Association’s website under About Physiotherapy or the Canadian Physiotherapy Association’s website under The Value of Physiotherapy. Further physiotherapy articles can also be found on-line in these websites.
Written by Janet Alexander PT