Tips to prevent/minimise neck and shoulder pain at work and while sleeping.
Most of us have experienced neck and shoulder pain over the years, often following poor postures at work or during sleep.
With an increase in sedentary workplaces, incidence of lower back and neck pain have increased. Often these injuries are related to the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) around the head, neck and shoulders and can be caused by poor postures, weakness, flexibility and repetitive overuse of these soft tissues.
Similarly, some conditions of the spine and shoulder joints can lead to muscle spasming and in turn an increase in pain. Often tightness and spasming of these muscle groups can lead to headaches (cervicogenic headaches), particularly after periods of prolonged postures. There are several ways to help decrease the intensity, frequency and duration of pain arising from these muscle groups while at work and sleeping.
People often ask what the best pillow or sleeping position is for their neck pain. Some practitioners and GP’s recommend posturepedic pillows and sleeping on your back to help decrease pain. It is important to trial what works best for you as everyone is individual. Try sleeping on your back with a flat pillow or a postrepedic pillow that shapes around your head and neck for additional support.
If you prefer to sleep on your side, then make sure to keep your neck in a neutral position without the head dropping down to the side or being forced upward. Most people sleep in multiple positions during the night, so be sure to have multiple pillows if needed and change your set up as required. Use comfort as a guide. If you’re not comfortable sleeping with your new fancy posturepedic pillow, then it’s not worth using.
There are many steps to take whilst at work to help minimise the impact of workplace postures on neck pain. Make sure your computer monitor is eye level or within 30 degrees of horizontal with a keyboard low enough to prevent hunching of the shoulders. Keep objects that are regularly used, such as phones, close to you to avoid regularly overreaching and even consider a headset if you use a phone regularly. Arms supports are also available for individuals that use a mouse for long periods of time. The biggest thing to remember is to regularly change tasks/postures as sitting in one position for a prolonged period can significantly increase fatigue and exhaustion of muscle groups.
Stretches for the upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles (attaching to the back of the head), strengthening of the deep neck flexors and trigger point massage are all ways to help further minimise neck and shoulder pain. These can be performed at home, work or as part of a regular exercise routine.
Overall there are many ways to decrease neck and shoulder pain caused by poor postures, weakness or flexibility. The first thing you need to do is be aware of the postures you spend most of the day in and ensuring you are taking the time to address the areas that cause your pain.