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Neck and shoulder pain

The neck and shoulders are a common pain area. Stress, long periods of sitting and injuries can all cause neck and shoulder pain.

If your pain is severe, you experience other symptoms, your pain does not improve within 3 days or it persists, see your healthcare professional.

Neck pain

Our neck not only supports our head, which can weigh as much as 5 kg, but also twists, bends and flexes. Neck pain affects two in three adults at some point in their lives, and 10% of people have a stiff neck at any time.

Shoulder pain

The shoulder is a very mobile joint with a wide range of movement and is more likely to be injured than other joints. Shoulder pain may arise from problems with the shoulder joint or its surrounding structures. Shoulder pain can also be caused by a neck condition that also affects the shoulders and upper back.

Neck and shoulder pain may cause aching or tight, painful muscle knots. A reduced range of motion can be felt as tightness, and make it difficult to turn your head or move your shoulder. Headaches can also occur with neck pain.

Neck pain is commonly caused by poor alignment of the joints within the neck (cervical dysfunction) and traumatic injuries.

Often there is no apparent cause of neck and shoulder pain. Simply using a computer for a long time, sleeping awkwardly or muscle tension from stress can be enough to cause neck and shoulder pain.

Injuries, such as a sudden jerk or wrench of the shoulder, or repetitive movements can also result in shoulder pain.

  • Keep moving. Although rest is needed in the initial period following an injury, gentle stretching and movement helps you recover strength and flexibility. Ask your healthcare professional for suitable exercises.
  • Heat and cold packs can provide relief for an aching neck or shoulders. If an injury has occurred, cold packs can be used to reduce swelling and inflammation during the first few days. Later, heat can relax tight muscles.
  • Watch your posture. Sitting upright with your back and neck straight puts less strain on your upper body than hunching forwards.
  • Get a good night's sleep. Avoid sleeping on your stomach or on high pillows, which can put strain on your neck. A neck support pillow may help.
  • Treatment with anti-inflammatory and pain relieving medication may be used to control pain in the early stages.

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