Question

Neck Pain

What can cause neck pain and headaches in women?

A Answers (1)

  • ARick Olderman, Physical Therapy, answered
    For women, there are two issues that particularly contribute to shoulder and therefore neck problems and headaches. The first is an ill-fitting bra with straps that loop over the outer shoulder or where the collar bone meets the scapula. To understand how this affects scapular positioning, hold your arm out to your side at shoulder height with a five-pound weight in your hand. With your arm still stretched out to the side, now put the five-pound weight on your shoulder. You'll notice it is far easier to hold the weight up when it is at the shoulder than when it is in your outstretched hand. This is because when trying to hold something up (the weight in this case), the further it is from the body means the harder it will be to hold up. The closer it is to your center, the easier it will be to hold up.

    Bra straps that loop over the outer shoulder rather than closer to the neck have the same effect on the scapula: they drag it down over time. This is especially a problem for women with large breasts. I've seen bra straps that severely dig into the shoulder from the weight they carry, pulling the shoulder blades downward. Wide straps that pass closer to the neck or cross in the back can unburden the shoulder and help alleviate neck pain or headaches. Some department stores have personnel who specialize in fitting bras. When working with someone, be sure to mention your neck pain or headaches and the need to unload the shoulder blade as much as possible.

    The second problem particular to women is carrying a heavy bag or purse over one shoulder, dragging the shoulder down and stressing the muscles that attach from the shoulder blade to the neck. Some solutions for this include periodically switching the bag from one shoulder to the other, using bags that have double straps that disperse the weight (as in a backpack) -- or simply cleaning out your bag to reduce the load.
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