By the time you read this the chances are the cold snap will have ended and daytime temperatures will have reached the dizzying heights of 6 or 7 degrees. Nonetheless you may be left with pain in your neck or shoulders. In cold weather we naturally tend to hunch our shoulders and pull our heads down into our coats and scarves, a bit like a tortoise retracting its head into its shell. Unfortunately this is not a happy situation for the neck and shoulders. That hunched posture puts a lot of strain on the upper part of the trapezius muscle – the large diamond shaped muscle which connects the neck and spine to the shoulder blades. By the end of the day, trapezius may well be shrieking at you. And when things get really bad, upper trapezius may give you headaches. Yes that pain in your temple could be originating in your shoulder.
So what to do? First off, buy a bigger scarf. This is an investment in your health which will see you through many winters – as long as you don’t leave it on the train. Seriously a bulkier scarf will fill that gap between your ears and your collar so that you don’t need to hunch up to keep out the cold.
But to help trapezius and the other neck muscles to relax and recover you can try any of the following:
- take a hot bath, with Epsom salts (which contain magnesium, which helps muscles to relax)
- apply some magnesium spray to the aching muscles
- do some shoulder rolls to help loosen up the shoulder muscles
- stretch your upper trapezius muscle by bending your neck so that you are looking towards an (imaginary) breast pocket, and hold for about 30 seconds
- check your posture throughout the day: you should be carrying your head above your shoulders, your shoulders should be held back and held above your hips, not pulled forward and down. You can achieve this by looking towards the horizon.
- if all the above doesn’t work, it may be that there is a muscular imbalance or joint stiffness which needs addressing, so make an appointment to see your osteopath.
Osteopathy can help by correcting postural imbalances, relaxing muscles and connective tissue which have become shortened and loosening up stiff joints, so that all parts of your body move freely. You will be amazed at how much more comfortable you feel after just one or two treatments.
So if the cold is giving you a pain in the neck and you feel in need of some loosening up, give us a call on 01234 409538.
Sorrel Pindar, Registered Osteopath