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Causes of Neck and Shoulder Tension

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 7/19/2009

Neck and shoulder sufferers are everywhere. Their causes are all different, but their suffering is the same. Whether you lifted a heavy load, or have just suffered whiplash from a car accident, the first step is to identify the causes of neck and shoulder tension.

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    About

    Causes of neck and shoulder tension are often linked to another ailment, or they are the result of a sudden injury. Neck pain sufferers are often those who are already dealing with a back injury, or they have experienced muscle tension from stress, or damage from a sudden impact injury. This affects 80 percent of the population who are back pain sufferers, and the nearly one million cases of whiplash reported a year. In addition, women are twice as likely to have neck pain after a whiplash. Shoulder pain is caused by upsetting the stabilizing structure of the shoulder, which includes a ball and joint, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Diseases such as fibromyalgia also contribute to both neck and shoulder pain.

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    Causes

    There are a number of causes of neck and shoulder tension, including lifting heavy objects, poor posture, sitting at the computer too long, tight muscles, back injuries, and a sedentary lifestyle. Poor posture causes the spine and neck to be out of alignment, sending pain to the neck. In addition, sitting or standing in one place with your head tilted forward in one direction taxes the small muscles in your neck, which can lead to pain. Nerve damage from aging and fibromyalgia are also common causes, as are herniated disks. Heavy lifting also can cause shoulder pain, and women are more likely than men to get shoulder pain because of their differing muscle structure.

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    Solutions

    By changing your daily habits, you can offset some causes of neck and shoulder tension. For example, keep your neck in a neutral position when at the computer or TV. Use a good pillow when you sleep, and take caution when lifting. Don't make sudden jerks or carry too much weight. In addition, keep the head rest up in your car to relieve tension in the neck. For shoulder pain, be sure to keep muscles stretched, and let them rest when you've been lifting heavy objects. Also be sure to create an ergonomic atmosphere and try strength training exercises. If your neck and shoulder problems persists, be sure to seek treatment from a doctor, who will examine the problem areas for damage.