Stiff neck? Tight shoulders? If you’re suffering with these, you’re not the only one. Over 4.6 million adults in the UK are estimated to suffer with shoulder pain, with over a quarter of the elderly population experiencing it. Between 15% and 31% of us have experienced neck pain lasting one day or more in the last 12 months.
Musculoskeletal problems such as neck and shoulder pain (as well as back pain and upper limb problems) were the second most common reason for sick days at work in 2016, resulting in 30.8 million working days lost that year. Pain in these areas is not only uncomfortable, but is having an effect on our day-to-day lives. If it can stop us going to work, what does this mean for our wellbeing?
Our mental and physical health are interlinked and muscle tension and pain is no exception. Ongoing physical pain is linked with diminished wellbeing and a poor quality of life. In some cases, neck and shoulder discomfort is caused by injury, but in others, it is a result of ongoing stress.
When we experience stress, our muscles tense up but then relax again once the stress has passed. If we regularly experience stress or anxiety, the muscles in our bodies can become constantly tense, leading to discomfort and pain. Constant muscle tension in our necks and shoulders can lead to other physical health problems such as headaches and migraines, which in turn negatively affect our mental wellbeing. Stress and muscle tension can easily turn into a vicious cycle resulting in ongoing, poor wellbeing.
Stretch out your tension
Today’s activity consists of two simple exercises that can relieve the tension in our shoulders and necks and consequently improve our wellbeing. If you are currently under the care of a medical professional for any shoulder or neck conditions, please consult with them first before undertaking these exercises.
The exercises require no special equipment, just a doorframe and a chair. The ‘lean in’ exercise stretches the deltoid muscles across the front of your shoulders and the ‘scalene stretch’ stretches the scalene muscles that run down either side of your neck. Follow the instructions on the worksheet carefully and remember – these are meant to be relaxing and stress-relieving, there is no need to push yourself unnecessarily.
Click the link below to download the worksheet.
Check back here (and @15minwellbeing on Instagram and twitter) tomorrow for the next wellbeing activity as part of Mental Health Awareness Week!