How to prevent Neck and shoulder stiffness

How to prevent Neck and shoulder stiffness

Neck pain has become more and more common in society simply because of lifestyle choices. Sitting in front of computers, looking at phones, tablets and other devices has changed our head carriage posture. The head is one of the heaviest aspects of the body. 

It is designed to sit on our neck directly over the spine – which is correct posture, not in front.  When we move our head forward (forward head carriage) it increases the load of the head on the neck and its associated muscles. In turn when this load is increased through the position of the head moving forward the muscles need to work harder to be able support this increased load. This has a number of long-term effects on the head of the neck and upper aspects of the spine. These include

  1. Increase muscular tension in the neck and shoulders 
  2. Increase neck joint stiffness 
  3. Long term anatomical changes to the person’s posture – cervical straightening 
  4. Secondary issues such as shoulder impingement, thoracic outlet syndrome and temporal mandibular joint syndrome 

Forward head carriage will lead to an increase in the tension of the muscles in the neck (cervical region). This increase in tension will lead to these muscles becoming shortened and tight. The flow on affect from these tight muscles is joint stiffness, and a loss of range of movement in the neck. Furthermore, this tightness in the muscles can cause problems with neural impingement leading to heads, migraines and even jaw pain (Temporal Mandibular Joint Syndrome TMJ). Over time this will lead to changes in the person’s posture and can cause cervical straighten. This is where the person starts to lose the natural cervical curve in the neck. Leading to a Dowages hump.

Neck and shoulder posture is fast becoming more and more dysfunction due to our desk bound jobs and our screen addiction. To prevent the problems we have discussed about there are number steps you need to do. Firstly, create correct postural positions for your self in your world. Set up your work station correctly. Ensure that your car seat allows you to have in the correct head position, your can use your mirrors as a guide. Hold your hand held devices in a position keeps your head straight and your chin tucked (neural spine).

The most important aspect of any program to prevent pain and dysfunction in the body is to move. The neck like the rest of the spine is designed to move, so you need to do regular exercise to mobilise, stretch and strength these muscles. 
The best way to prevent neck stiffness 

  1. Correct breathing- a lot of the neck muscles are respiratory muscles, we use them to breath. When you do not breath correctly these muscles become dysfunctional tighten up- diaphragmatic breathing is an essential part of preventing these muscles from tightening up  
  2. Chin tuck exercises- this is an exercise that you can do anytime throughout the day, just leaning against a wall with your upper back and shoulders. Place the tongue on the roof of your mouth, pull your head back so you are tucking your chin in. This bring your head over your body into the correct neutral spine position.
  3. When exercising and participating in strength training activities ensure that you keep your head in a neutral spine position. This will help strengthen your neck muscles and upper back muscles in stabilising and holding your head in correct posture. 
  4. Stretching the neck, chest on upper limb- neck tightness impacts the neck, chest and arm so regularly stretching of the neck, chest and front of the shoulder
  5. Mobilising the upper back and neck: One of the consequences of poor head posture is increase kyphosis (forward curve of the upper back) this will exacerbate the forward head carriage. Therefore, improving the upper back posture through strengthen in the back muscles and mobilising the thoracic spine will improve the upper spines overall positioning which will in turn in assist in correcting forward head carriage 

(I can send photos of these all stretches and exercises with instructions – if you needed)