“Tight neck and shoulders” – it’s possibly the most common pain in a population. While most occasions it’s no more than a simple nuisance, every now and then we get people who are experiencing life-hindering amount of discomfort on the area.
Before I move onto the main part of this article I will need to assume three things:
1) The patient does NOT have a MEDICAL condition that is responsible for the neck pain (nasty stuff that should be cleared by your doctor)
2) The “tight neck and shoulders” that I’m referring to is NOT an acute pain post-trauma (e.g. straight after a car accident, although some time after the accident applies)
3) The pain is NOT relieved by simple stretches or exercises
4) Any structural abnormality that exists in the patient has been clinically determined to be UNLIKELY source of the pain (that disc bulge in the neck does not always cause pain).
1), 2) and 3) are pretty straightforward. 4), however isn’t, and it will require a competent and skilled clinician to carefully determine (or more accurately, make educated assumptions) how much of the pain experienced by the patient is being originated from a given set of structural abnormalities that may exist in a him/her. This is a big topic in itself and best not explored here.
So, if all of the abovementioned four points are cleared this means the neck and shoulder tightness is quite unlikely to be coming from an illness, injury, simple muscle tightness or structural changes (most commonly disc bulge or arthritis). For the sake of brevity let’s call this Chronic Non-Specific Neck and Shoulder Pain (or CNSNSP – you’ve gotta love abbreviations)
Then where on earth is the pain coming from? And no it’s not tight muscles.
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