Pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders can range from slight discomfort that hinders full movement to severe pain that prevents even minimal movement. Fortunately, the problem can often be prevented or relieved by reducing strain and tension in the muscles and joints.
Avoid neck and shoulder strain by paying attention to how you stand, sit, lift and carry. Learn to recognize the signs of stress, and offset any negative physical effects by practicing good stress management techniques. Always warm up and stretch before exercise; the overuse of cold muscles can cause pain and stiffness.
For pain from minor strain or tension, try the following natural remedies:
If your symptoms are not severe, ask your partner or a friend to give you the shiatsu massage. Enhance its soothing effects by adding a few drops of relaxing essential oil, such as lavender or geranium, to your basic massage oil or lotion. Place hot compress over the affected area or apply alternate hot and cold compress for a total of 20 minutes. Leave each hot compress in place for three minutes and each cold one for one minute.
Much neck and shoulder pain is from muscle tension caused by poor posture, especially when driving or working at a desk. Adjust your seat, especially before long journeys. Your back should be well supported along its length. Shorter people should be able to see clearly over the steering wheel without straining the neck. Use a cushion if your car seat is not fully adjustable.
Pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders are often caused by muscle tension resulting from emotional tension. Herbs with relaxing properties may help. Take a bath in warm water adding tea made from rosemary or lavender to it. Avoid rosemary if you are in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Try chamomile, hops, passion flower or valerian. Take as tea before bedtime.
Arnica for pain and stiffness arising from a recent injury. Take the remedy as liquid or tablets or apply it topically as ointment. Rhus toxicodendron for long standing pain and stiffness when symptoms are eased by gentle movement, warmth and massage.
Seek the advice of a qualified practitioner of a manipulative therapy, such as osteopathy or chiropractic. Acupuncture may also help. Longstanding neck and shoulder problems may benefit from the improved posture that is achieved through the Alexander technique, the Feldenkrais method or similar bodywork therapies.
Shiatsu massage for painful neck and shoulder:
This sequence will help relieve pain and stiffness when symptoms are not severe and do not include redness. The sufferer should sit on a chair, stool or floor. The instructions are for the person giving the treatment. Omit step one if the sufferer is pregnant. Stand behind the sufferer and lean straight down on the shoulders with open palms. Start with gentle pressure and gradually lean more heavily. Move your hands so you can work on one side. Support the forehead with one hand and, with the other hand, squeeze the muscles at the back of the neck, working downwards from the base of the skull. Apply firm but careful thumb pressure into the hollow between the neck muscles at the base of the skull. Work downwards. Change sides and hands, repeating on the other side of the neck. Step back and place your hands, with arms extended, onto the shoulders. Apply slow and repeated pressure into the spine between the shoulder blades. In judging the degree of pressure to expert, be guided by the person’s response. Finish by repeatedly squeezing and stroking the arms from the shoulders to the elbows in a series of quick movements to dispel any remaining tension.
Neck release exercises:
Try the sequence of exercises described below to release tension in the neck and shoulders. Sit comfortably in an upright chair, and breathe slowly and evenly throughout. Repeat each exercise six times before going on to the next. Stop if you feel dizzy.
- Allow your head to drop forwards until your chin rests on your chest. Raise your head slowly.
- Tilt your head to one side and then the other.
- Slowly turn your head to face left and then slowly turn to face right.
- Lift your shoulders up towards your ears; roll them forwards and then backwards.