Neck and Shoulder PainNeck and shoulder pain can occur for a number of reasons and may be short-lived or a chronic annoyance, discomfort, and disability. The neck is an extremely complex area in terms of the nervous system and circulation with numerous blood vessels and cervical nerves passing through it. The innervation to the upper body, including the shoulders and the neck, supplied by these cervical nerves may be disrupted by acute or chronic damage such as whiplash or a degenerative demyelinating nerve condition. Ischaemia in the muscles of the shoulder may also occur if a blood vessel becomes compressed or damaged, leading to muscle cramps and pain initially and followed by muscle atrophy (wasting) if the problem persists.
In some cases neck and shoulder pain may be a result of poor posture, sitting in a draught for a long time, sleeping at a funny angle, or carrying a heavy load in an uncomfortable way. Similarly, using a shoulder bag day in and day out can cause chronic neck and shoulder pain even if the bag is not obviously heavy, simply by applying a consistent strain to one side of the upper body. Opting for a backpack may be a good way of avoiding neck and shoulder pain if this is the likely culprit.
For those who sit at a desk for a large portion of their working day it is important to try to incorporate some neck exercises into the routine, some of which are easily done whilst at the desk, although getting up to stretch and walk around every half hour or so is preferable. Checking the angle of the computer screen, the position of the keyboard, and chair height is also likely to reveal small stresses on the body which can effect pain in the neck and shoulders over time. An ergonomic assessment should help reduce the incidence of neck and shoulder pain throughout the work environment and is often cost-effective for an employer due to less sick days taken by staff.
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Last Updated: 04/11/2011