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Back, Neck and Shoulders

Following on from my previous blog about muscle knots it struck me that an awful lot of my clients have been coming to me specifically with upper back/shoulder pain, the causes of which have been rather diverse.  As a massage therapist it is often extremely difficult to ascertain what might be the cause of upper back /shoulder pain if there is no obvious cause such as a pull or injury which would be felt immediately and not forgotten.  It is also NOT my place to diagnose.

During many consultations common causes of shoulder pain seem to be:

  • Bad posture at work, seated at a desk for prolonged periods resulting in muscle knots
  • Tension or bad form during exercise
  • Inadequate bedding (mattresses and pillows) and/or bad sleeping posture
  • Stress, anxiety and tension
  • Injury
  • Carrying heavy bags draped on one side and/or carrying heavy items by hand
  • A lack of conditioning & flexibility
  • Forgetting a warm up before exercise & a sensible cool down thereafter.

There are a great deal of muscles in that area, any one of which could be affected, the most common scenario I see, is a combination of several of the above. Stress and tension in the shoulders, combined with a bad night’s sleep and then compounded by either prolonged periods at a desk/computer and/or carrying heavy bags or children.  When you are with a massage therapist try to be as open and give as much information about your lifestyle as possible, though at first it may not be obvious why they are asking you certain questions, in the end trying to ascertain root causes of muscle tension and knots comes together like pieces of a jigsaw and will allow the therapist to provide you with the best possible treatment and aftercare.

The best thing you can do if you are thinking about massage is firstly, find a therapist in a location that suits you and is convenient to you, secondly, go for one maybe two sessions to see if you get along and most importantly if you feel any benefits (which you will do if you choose me) and finally (i cannot emphasise this enough) be consistent. Be prepared to see your massage therapist at consistent intervals - how frequently to start with depends on your requirements and the therapists recommendations, take all the advice you've been given and be diligent about any aftercare. If you do these things, I promise that you will see a difference, after which regular maintenance is essential!

Sports & Deep tissue massage are far removed from luxury purchases, they are remedial and therapeutic and just as significant as part of a healthy lifestyle choice as regular exercise and sensible eating habits are.

The good news is that we can actually do things to help ourselves, before the situation becomes so bad that range of movement is restricted and pain is a constant aspect of your working life, worse still stiff neck and shoulders can sometimes trigger migraines.  Consider this:

Muscles in order to function as optimally as possible require suppleness, movement, flexibility, and blood flow.  So how can we prevent this without spending hours in the gym conditioning every single teeny tiny muscle? How about this:

  • Regular massages
  • Morning stretches
  • Regular breaks from stationary postures with stretches to suit
  • Conditioning of the muscles through correct warm ups  before exertion and cool downs and stretches afterward
  • A well rounded program of exercise, activities that include stretches as well as high intensity activity

Stretch, daily. Massage, as often as possible! Foam Roll, and mobilise your joints. For more reasons on why to stretch take a look at this mist excellent video on fascia by Gil Hedley. Though i have to warn you, its not for the faint hearted. 


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