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The Guru

Jan 12th, 2014

Antony asked The Guru for the following Physiotherapy Advice:

Dear Guru,

I have been having stiff and painful neck for many years, the pain has gone over the past few years and it is just stiff sometimes now. Recently (over the last few months) I now have painful shoulders, the motion of the shoulders is now quite limited, i find it hard to put on my coat or even tuck my shirt into my trousers, or lift my arms high, motion to the front is not so bad, but motion to the back is very limited. I also have nearly constant pins and needles in both of my arms. Sleeping is quite difficult as i normally sleep on my sides and this causes quite a lot of pain. I end up sleeping on one side until the pain wakes me up then change to the other side.

Things are even more complicated as I am an English guy living in China, and my Chinese is not good enough to converse with a doctor. I think that as it is happening in both shoulders and arms nearly the same, that it may be a problem in upper spine where the nerves come out through the spine.

I am wondering if this is something that you have come across before, and if you can recommend something that i can do myself to improve the situation? Finding a Physio here that i can communicate with is going to be very hard.

Thank you in advance for any help that you can give me.

The Guru Responded:

Hi Antony

I think your spot on, and is really easy to deal with because it’s pretty common.

You’ve got a super tight thoracic spine, which makes your neck and shoulders move more to compensation for the lack of motion in your mid back.

The extra movement on its own is not a problem, but the lack of control is.

Take care stretching your neck or arms/shoulders. Instead try this….

Roll up a towel as if you’re heading off to the beach and put the rolled towel on the floor. Put a pillow (needs to be higher than the towel) at the top, making a “T” shape. Now lie on the towel so it runs down your back between your shoulder blades. Your head rests on the pillow, shoulders off. You must bend your knees up. Stay here for 10 minutes (it can feel as if you lying on a towel, but not be painful). Then get up and move around, lifting you chest NOT sticking it out or taking a deep breath in.

Make sure your sitting, work posture is spot on too.

Try this for a week and see what gives….or if you could find someone to mobilise your thoracic spine, even better!

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