Posted by: Integra Massage | February 10, 2011

Overcoming neck and shoulder pain

There is a saying that every stress or strain in our lives finds its way into the neck.  And it is certainly true that some of the most common conditions I treat are chronic neck, shoulder and arm pain including: Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), Work Related Upper Limb disorder (WRULD), Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Whiplash, Frozen Shoulder and similar.


And just because they are common doesn’t mean that they are not debilitating and distressing.  These complaints can disrupt every part of your life:  work becomes an endurance exercise, sleep is disrupted and your family, social and leisure life looses its joy.

Mostly neck and shoulder pain is the result of what is  known medically as Myofascial Pain Syndrome.  This describes a situation where hard restrictive fibrous tissue builds up at points of maximum stress and tight knots called trigger points develop which restrict movement and radiate pain throughout the upper body.  The resulting impaired blood circulation weakens and tightens the muscles even more leading to a seemingly endless cycle of tension and pain.


The most common causes are inefficient posture and body use, repetitive strain and fatigue; but stress, poor nutrition and food intolerances, dehydration, hormonal imbalances and many other factors are important.

Skilful massage is a powerful way to break the tension-pain cycle.  Treatment begins by looking carefully at your posture and movement and then begin to work deeply but sensitively to release and deactivate the painful trigger points, lengthen and reposition tight tissue and realign joints which have become pushed out of place.


Often the weak or restricted tissues are in areas of the body far from the pain site. For example pelvic alignment powerfully influences the function of the neck and shoulders.  The treatment will therefore often work your body as a whole, literally following the lines of tension from head to toe.


As your body returns to a  state of ease and balance you experience reduction of pain and fatigue and greater suppleness and stamina.


Neck, shoulder and arm pain often begins to improve quickly with appropriate massage, although some conditions like frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) and whiplash require a long and regular course of treatment.


Self care is important, including such factors as stress management, attention to body posture at work, adequate fluid intake and proper nutrition.  Exercise, particularly the Lian Gong exercises are an essential complement to your massage sessions.



Joanne’s Story


Joanne is typical of so many office workers I see:  hardworking, conscientious, undervalued, juggling  a demanding job as an administrator with the care of a young family.  She was accustomed to stiff shoulders and headaches after a day at the computer, but after putting in many extra hours for a deadline things had turned nasty.  Searing pain behind her right shoulder blade was shooting up into her head and down her arm, she could only turn her neck with difficulty.


I asked her to stand so I could observe her posture.  Her shoulders were rounded, her chest compressed down and there was a deep hollow in her lower back.  Signs I recognised as typical of a stressed out office worker.


In the first session I worked to release the trigger points which were radiating pain into her head and arm.  Joanne found this work uncomfortable but when she got up from the couch she laughed, enjoying for the first time  a feeling of relief and ease of movement.  The next day she was sore but as this wore off she realised the searing pain was much less.


In following sessions I worked more and more on correcting her postural imbalances.  Joanne would leave these sessions feeling taller and straighter.  After eight sessions the problem was largely resolved.  Joanne decided to keep coming for treatment on a monthly basis to prevent the build up of work related tension.  She valued these sessions as time for her, when she could really relax and get in touch with herself.





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