As one of the healthiest populations in the nation, residents of the Roaring Fork Valley are highly active all year round. With an endless choice of four seasons of sports activities on offer and world-class destinations within easy reach on the Western Slope, there’s no time for neck and shoulder pain to get in the way of the next adventure. Yet, the skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, climbing and other activities that captivate our minds and bodies can also lead to neck and shoulder pain from time to time.
Fortunately, the elite-grade specialists (and fellow mountain lifestyle enthusiasts) at OrthoAspen not only empathize when it comes to pain; they also have the experience, skills and expertise to effectively treat a wide variety of injuries that often go hand-in-hand with our rugged high Alpine terrain.
What Are the Potential Causes of Neck and Shoulder Pain?
While occasional neck and shoulder aches can be common byproducts of an active lifestyle, more persistent pain in these areas may indicate the need for medical attention.
Here comes the science: common conditions that produce shoulder and neck pain:
- Cervical Disc Degeneration
When the protective layer of a cervical disc begins to break down, the space between the vertebrae narrows, putting stress on the joints of the spine. A herniated disc refers to the protrusion of the disc from the spine. This applies pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, creating pain and discomfort.
- Soft Tissue Neck Injuries
The impact from a motor vehicle collision, sports mishap, or any other situation in which the neck is hyperextended or positioned beyond the normal range of motion can lead to injury. Neck injuries most commonly cause pain in the muscles and ligaments of the neck.
- Shoulder Arthritis
When joint cartilage begins to deteriorate due to wear and tear, the shoulder can stiffen and become painful and inflamed.
- Rotator Cuff Tears
Rotator cuff tears can occur over time due to degeneration of the tendons or from a traumatic injury. Pain can range from mild to severe, depending on the size of the tear.
- Shoulder Impingement
Other names you may be more familiar with are swimmer’s shoulder, tennis shoulder and rotator cuff tendinitis. These terms describe what happens when the bursa overlying the rotator cuff becomes inflamed.
Try These Three Gentle Stretches and Exercises for Neck and Shoulder Pain
One of the many reasons our active Aspen-area patients turn to OrthoAspen is for our conservative treatment approaches. Whenever possible, our OrthoAspen specialists attempt to implement non or minimally invasive methods of care to address orthopedic conditions.
One of the best ways to treat chronic neck and shoulder pain is by practicing routine exercises and stretches. However, if you’re experiencing severe pain or are unsure whether an exercise or stretch should be performed, always consult with your doctor first.
The following stretches are specifically designed to help reduce neck and shoulder pain.
- Head Rolls
Rolling the head in a circular motion can help stretch sore neck muscles and ligaments. To begin, make sure your weight is evenly distributed on both legs (standing or sitting). Gently bend your chin toward your chest. Tilt the head to the right, then roll your head forward and to the left (so your left ear should be pointed toward your left shoulder). Then, carefully and slowly roll the head backward. Alternate this exercise in a clockwise and counterclockwise motion three times in each direction.
- Shoulder Shrugs
Shoulder shrugs can help decompress the neck and shoulder muscles and add strength. Begin by sitting or standing erect. Scrunch the shoulders as high toward your ears as possible. Hold for a few seconds and release. Start with five to 10 repetitions and work your way to 12.
- Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is often used as a resting posture during yoga. To help relax the muscles in the neck and shoulders, start by kneeling on the floor. Sit your buttocks on the heels of your feet. Then, bend over the tops of your thighs until your forehead reaches the ground. Extend the arms forward, making sure they are parallel and also resting on the ground. You may need to widen the knees to make room for your torso and help your forehead reach the floor.
What Is the Best Treatment for Neck and Shoulder Pain?
If you’ve attempted these gentle exercises and stretches for neck and shoulder pain relief but are still experiencing discomfort and stiffness, it may be time for an orthopedic visit.
At OrthoAspen, we have entire teams dedicated to addressing the neck and shoulders. There are a number of additional non-surgical treatment protocols your doctor may be able to recommend.
No matter what diagnosis your OrthoAspen physician helps to identify, you can rest assured knowing your active lifestyle, safety and care are top priorities. We’re dedicated to helping you find the best treatment solution for your neck and shoulder pain so you can get back to doing the things you love.
Raising Standards in the Rockies
When New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS)—the world’s largest academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health—reached out to OrthoAspen, a unique collaboration took root in the heart of the Rocky Mountains setting a new standard for musculoskeletal health on the Western Slope.
The Best Care Is Close to Home
With the meticulous implementation of HSS standards and protocols, and ongoing knowledge-transfer from HSS to OrthoAspen, you can get back to pursuing your passions, under the care of highly skilled doctors at OrthoAspen who have the resources of the nation’s top orthopedic hospital working for you.
Take the next step towards elevated quality of life, contact OrthoAspen to book your consultation, or call us directly at 970-544-1289.