That crick in your neck or ache in your shoulder isn’t necessarily an inevitable feature of getting older. It could be an old sports injury coming back to haunt you, or it could be a preventable effect of something you’re doing (or not doing). Consider these three things that make your neck and shoulders hurt.
First, some important disclaimers: This article is for general information from a layperson’s perspective. It isn’t medical advice. Common sense says that if neck or shoulder pain comes on suddenly, it can be a sign of a serious condition (including a heart attack or a stroke). If you experience sudden neck and shoulder pain or pain that persists for more than a few days, contact your doctor right away.
OK, now let’s get on to three things that make your neck and shoulders hurt. You can make some simple changes in your home and habits that can prevent pain caused by the following things:
Bad posture is a common cause of neck and shoulder pain. Ideally, your shoulders should be in a straight line, directly over your hips. Your head should be upright, with your ears over your shoulders.
If you work at a computer, you may be slumping in your chair, dropping your head forward, and arching your shoulders toward the screen. Don’t. Your screen should be at or slightly below eye level, about an arm’s length away. Your elbows should be at 90-degree angles, with your mouse comfortably close to your computer, to prevent reaching. Sit up straight with your back against the lumbar support of your desk chair.
If your desk chair doesn’t adjust so that your feet are flat on the floor, with your knees slightly lower than your hips, consider a new chair. If you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, consider investing in an ergonomic chair. Take frequent breaks to stand up and move around.
Many active seniors don’t like to slow down, even to take a phone call. But tucking your phone between your neck and shoulder while you’re folding the laundry is a free pass to neck pain. Put your phone on speaker while you’re baking, exercising, or doing housework. That way, you can still talk to your children and grandchildren without straining your neck.
Carrying a Heavy Bag
If you’re in the habit of toting a heavy gym bag, carryall purse, or briefcase around, you’re putting strain on your neck and shoulder muscles. This is especially true if you always carry your bag on the same side. Try using a backpack or a rolling bag instead, or at least shift sides frequently. You can prevent neck and shoulder pain by avoiding overloading one side of your body versus the other.
How you sit, stand, move, and sleep—and even the kind of pillow you use—affect your neck and shoulders. Regular exercise, including stretching and strength exercises, can also help.