Tight or tense shoulders are one of the most common complaints we are faced with, and our sports massage service regularly helps clients.
At its worst, shoulder and neck tension can cause discomfort, loss of sleep, anxiety, and can impact on people’s quality of life.
It frequently worsens at this time of year as the way we respond to the cold weather can aggravate underlying problems.
Shoulder tension is far from exclusive to sports people – in fact, many of its causes and aggravating factors relate to the way people behave in day-to-day life.
This is the first of a two-part blog, in which we will look at some of the causes of shoulder tension. In part two, we will suggest some ways to ease the symptoms or modify behaviour to help prevent it becoming worse.
However, as with any musculoskeletal injury, the best solution is to see a specialist who will be able to identify the specific cause of the problem and recommend ways to prevent the issue from returning.
Causes of shoulder tightness
Hunching against the cold
We see a huge spike in shoulder-tension complaints at this time of year, and it has a lot to do with the weather. It’s not actually being cold itself that causes the problem, but the way we naturally want to ‘hunch’ our shoulders to brace ourselves against the climate.
Stress and shoulder/neck problems go hand in hand, but this can be a vicious circle – stress can aggravate an underlying shoulder problem, which then increases stress levels. Again, it’s not the stress itself that causes the issue, but the way in which our behaviour changes.
This is a big one and contributes hugely to the fact that so many people with desk jobs suffer from shoulder tension. Sitting incorrectly and performing repetitive movements (typing, using a mouse), for extended periods, is a simple recipe for a sore back, neck, and shoulders. The worst thing is, as the pain and tension increases, the worse our posture usually becomes.
This is related to posture, above, but think carefully about how you lift, carry, walk, and especially drive. If you spend a long time behind the wheel of a vehicle, it’s worth checking that your seat is adjusted correctly, that the steering wheel is at a suitable height, and that you don’t slouch or lean whilst you drive.
Exercise will tend to improve posture, core strength and flexibility, but only if done correctly. Warm up and warm down properly and thoroughly. This is not just the case for sports that use a lot of upper-body movement: make sure you look after your shoulders, no matter what sport you do.