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The neck and shoulders are complex structures that allow us to reach, lift, turn, and nod. Located at the top of the spinal column, the neck contains seven bones called vertebrae that protect the spinal cord and allow us to bend and rotate the neck with ease.
Nerves in the spinal cord, which run through the neck, transmit signals from the brain to the rest of the body, allowing us to carry out all sorts of functions. The neck also houses other structures that enable us to speak, breathe, and swallow.
Each shoulder comprises numerous bones, joints, and muscles which work together to ensure the widest range of motion of any body part. There are three major bones that meet at the shoulder: the clavicle (collarbone), scapula (shoulder blade), and humerus.
Many muscles stabilize the shoulder joints while cartilage provides padding, fibrous ligaments connect the bones, and tendons attach muscles to bones. Injury to any of these components can result in pain, discomfort, and loss of function.
Because the neck and shoulders are used so regularly, and they have such a wide range of motion, they are highly susceptible to injury. In fact, neck and shoulder problems are among the most common health complaints today.
Poor posture, lack of exercise, overuse, arthritis, and physical trauma all contribute to pain and swelling in these body parts. Some of the most common neck and shoulder issues include:
Even mild neck and shoulder injuries can cause significant loss of function. Neck pain makes it difficult to carry out basic everyday tasks, and it interferes with people’s ability to work, exercise, and sleep.
Shoulder problems mean that people struggle to reach and lift, which impacts their ability to shower, get dressed, and move about freely.
Certain measures can help reduce or prevent damage to the neck and shoulders, allowing people to retain their independence and quality of life. Even simple techniques can go a long way toward protecting these vital body parts.
Various therapies and treatments can ease the discomfort of neck and shoulder pain. Many of these therapies offer an effective alternative to medications, especially for mild to moderate symptoms. Most can be used in conjunction with medical treatments. They often treat other issues as well, such as inflammation and skin redness.
To maintain flexibility and function in the neck and shoulders, exercise them frequently. Moving these body parts on a regular basis brings fresh blood to the muscles and other tissues, which speeds up healing. By keeping the muscles flexible, you’re more likely to avoid injury and tissue damage.
The best neck and shoulder exercises involve stretching and strengthening movements. Good options include:
While exercises and targeted therapies are essential for a healthy neck and shoulders, some people may require even more support and protection. A whole range of products is available to reduce or prevent injury and encourage healing.
Braces and slings offer immobilization and protection against physical trauma, while ice packs, massage balls, and TENS units provide quick relief from pain. Those with an injury or joint disease may benefit from assistive devices, such as reacher grabbers and dressing sticks, to make up for loss of neck and shoulder function.
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