Neck and shoulder/upper back pain is one of the most common conditions seen in clinics where musculo-skeletal problems are treated: The two conditions are often related due to the regional interconnections affected by common nerves and muscle groups.
The large numbers of people working in desk jobs or spending long hours looking at computers have contributed to the rise of neck and shoulder/upper back pain in the modern age. The neck and shoulder are also commonly injured by sporting and motor vehicle accidents due to the complex and vulnerable nature of their anatomies. Whatever the cause of the condition relief can usually be found by a combination of various therapies and self management techniques.
Sitting for long periods in a sustained position changes the structure and function of muscles and joints. Without proper compensatory activity these postures can result in increased pain and reductions in mobility; as time goes on the severity and frequency of related problems tends to increase.
How to get better
It is advisable to get up from the desk and move around every 30 minutes in order to stop this process from happening; taking your neck, shoulders and upper back through their natural range of motion then stretching can be very preventive: Even spending 5 minutes doing this a few times throughout your day can have a great effect.
With any long term painful condition changes to the nervous system occur and the frequent activation of the neural pain circuit makes the felt sensation of pain amplified via a neural streamlining effect. Levels of thought and emotion can develop in association and feed back into the brain’s development of neural networks causing pain.
In addition to any therapy it can be very beneficial to counter or distract yourself from the perception, the emotional response and the habitual internal dialogue stimulated by pain so as to decrease the activity of these problematic networks that prompt the experience of pain. Ideally therapy should aim to help with these common mental/emotional aspects of the problem; acupuncture and counseling can be very beneficial in this regard.
Starting or changing exercise, stretching, range of motion regimes and even dietary changes, such as increased magnesium and water consumption, can help to change the physical inputs to your nervous system and can also aid the process by altering the structure and function of muscles and joints that initiate pain stimuli. Similarly, physical therapies such as acupuncture and massage can greatly assist and fast-track the desirable changes.
At Freedom Chinese Medicine in addition to providing acupuncture, Chinese medicine, massage and lifestyle advice, we also conduct workshops every two months to help people self manage and be informed about the nature of their neck/upper back pain and its treatment options.
Workshops are conducted by Shiro Akiyama and Daniel Gibbs; both have extensive knowledge and experience in the treatment and of neck, shoulder and upper back pain.
Book a workshop or acupuncture appointment with us on (03) 9486 5966 and mention this article for a 20% discount:
Written by Dr. Daniel Gibbs
Fu, LM et al (2009) Randomized controlled trials of acupuncture for neck pain: systematic review and meta-analysis, Pub Med/Medline, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19216662