Staying in one position for extended periods of time can cause all sorts of aches and pains in the body. One of the most common complaints I hear of is neck and shoulder pain. Poor posture, stress, and overuse injuries may all contribute to the pain. Below are some exercises that may help to reduce chronic neck pain.
Here are some exercises to help:
1. Neck Stretches: when your head is placed in a head forward position for extended periods of time, muscles such as your upper trapezius, levator scapula and scalenes can become hypertoned meaning short and tight. To stretch these muscles in a seated position, start by sidebending your neck to one side, you should feel a gentle stretch, there should be no pain with this, then place a hand on top of your head to increase the stretch. Hold this position for 30-45 seconds and repeat on the other side.
2. Rhomboid Strengthening: your rhomboids consist of two muscles on either side of your spine between your shoulder blades, and their action is to retract your shoulders back. Neck pain from head forward position usually accompanies shoulders which are rounded forward and rhomboids that are weak and lengthened. The purpose of strengthening your rhomboids is to bring your shoulders back into correct alignment. To strengthen your rhomboids, squeeze your shoulder blades together, focusing on contracting the rhomboids. Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 10 times.
3. Pectoralis Stretching: rehabilitation is all about bringing balance back to the body. A great complement to rhomboid strengthening is to stretch the pecs. To do this, place your arm at a 90 degree angle on a wall with the same side leg forward in a lunge position. Lean forward until you feel a stretch, hold for 30-45 seconds and repeat on the other side.
4. Heat: place on upper shoulders and neck area for 10 minutes to relieve muscle tension. You can also try doing this before doing the neck stretch to increase the stretch. Do not use heat if there is current inflammation or swelling from an injury.
5. Massage: In addition to stretch and strengthening exercises, massage has been shown to help reduce chronic neck pain and increase range of motion. Benefits include reducing muscle tension, trigger points, and muscle tissue adhesions, while also reducing pain and increasing the parasympathetic nervous system response.
Have a Happy, Healthy Canada Day!
Katherine Batho, RMT