Tuesday 27 November 2018

5 Neck and Shoulder Things

I'm often asked what the most common injury that I get in my practice is. As it turns out, I'm a shoulder and neck guy. A large part of my practice involves treating body builders, rock climbers, trades workers, hairstylists, and elderly who experience pain in this area.

(Funny enough, I always thought that I'd be a knee-guy while in college, due to my running background. What's more, the shoulder was the most difficult joint to get my head around in school. I guess studying actually pays off?)

Go figure.
The neck and shoulder are closely related, with dysfunction or symptoms in one often causing symptoms in the other. With that being said, here are some go-to thoughts regarding the health of these joints.

Your Posture Probably Isn't The Problem

I speak a lot on the fact that there is poor correlation between bad posture and future incidents of pain. There are too many individuals out there walking with forward heads and shoulders but no discomfort and vice versa.

Instead, we've linked lack of variety in posture closer to pain. Good or bad, spending too much time in a single position is not what the body craves, and this often is the route to muscular tension and discomfort. This is why it's recommended to take regular movement breaks while at work. It doesn't take much.

Stretching Does Not Make Unstable Joints Happy

Thank goodness, the fitness industry seems to be tapering off a bit from the whole mobility craze that it went through. But I digress, I still see numerous individuals trying to stretch and traction their shoulders to proper health.

No, I'm not saying that joint mobility isn't important. But fairly enough, we went through a bit of an epidemic of fitness buffs non-specifically stretching their joints to the point of laxity with bands. Shoulders often hurt because they're, in simple terms, too loose. And stretching something in this condition will not improve the situation.

Warm Up, But Not Just Your Rotator Cuffs

So we turn to strengthening and warming up. Many individuals think that the rotator cuff muscles are the end-all for shoulder health. After all, their function is to stabilize the head of the humerus (the ball) in the socket.

However, what we don't always realize is that rotator cuff muscles are often simply overworked. Proper strength to control the movement of the shoulder blade is vital to shoulder health, so warming up and exercising the ability to protract, retract, and glide the scapula is key.

Your Upper Traps Are Not Your Only Traps

The upper traps seem to be the bane of many people's existence. The stress tension collects there, they take over other muscles' jobs, and the pain can be excruciating. And stretching often doesn't seem to have an effect.

Well, we know that muscle tightness is neurological. Sometimes, a muscle will present as tight because its opposing muscle is weak. The lower traps oppose the upper in part of their function, with the middle traps assisting the two. I frequently find these middle and lower traps weak in clients who complain of upper shoulder tightness, and so this is an important area to keep in mind.

Keep That Neck Strong

The muscles at the front of your neck are important for maintaining stability and control of that area of the spine. These are also one of the muscle groups that commonly become weak throughout our sedentary lifestyles.

I had to insert this somewhere.
Drawing your chin in like a drawer (or the double chin position) contracts those deep neck flexors at the front. Having these guys strong will prevent the neck muscles in the back or others from the shoulder from tensing up to try and create that stability on their own.


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