Fitness

Body basic: No more pain in the neck

Author: Canadian Living

Fitness

Body basic: No more pain in the neck

Do you walk around with knots in your neck? Do your shoulder muscles feel tight and stiff? A pain in the neck – and shoulders – is not uncommon for people who sit too long at a desk or in a car, lift and carry a baby around, strain under the weight of groceries, a heavy purse or a briefcase, or simply deal with too much stress. And that list covers just about all of us.

Many of the activities in our daily life involve lifting our shoulders up – which compresses the muscles and soft tissue around the neck and upper back. The results are poor posture, fatigue, strain and pain. A great way to fight them is with a shrug – the shoulder shrug!

Do the exercise below to relax your neck and upper back. To reap even greater benefits, do the stretches while you're taking a warm shower or with a warm damp towel draped across your shoulders. (You can dampen the towel and warm it up in the microwave for about 45 seconds.)

Reverse shoulder shrug
This is one of the best exercises for strengthening your shoulders and upper back – key for reducing strain and stress on the muscles in this area and your neck.

1. Sit tall on a chair without leaning against the back for support. Pull your shoulders back toward your spine and down. Reach your fingers toward the floor.

2. Draw your chin back so that your ears align directly over your shoulders; pull your navel in toward your spine. As you draw your chin and your abdominals in, you should feel as if you've lengthened your spine. Be sure to keep your shoulders back and down (imagine your shoulder blades moving in the direction of your back hip pockets) until you feel a moderate amount of effort between and underneath both shoulder blades.

3. Hold this action for a three to five seconds and release. Repeat eight to 10 times. If you feel a simultaneous stretch in your upper shoulders and upper back, it means that this exercise is perfect for you!

As you reawaken the muscles underneath and below your shoulder blades, you'll start to see a lengthening and feel a nice release anywhere from your upper neck to the tops of your shoulders.

If you're having difficulty sensing the correct body positioning, this technique will show you how to align your body: Lie on your bed without a pillow, with your legs bent or relaxed straight out. Try to draw your chin back toward the mattress; you should sense the space between your neck and the mattress becoming smaller. Also draw your shoulders into the mattress and imagine your shoulder blades moving down into your hip pockets (i.e. you want to feel your shoulders move away from your ears and toward your hips). Reach your fingers toward your ankles. Pull your navel in toward the mattress.

More tips to help alleviate discomfort, pain and headaches:
• Invest in a headset for your telephone.

• Change your position every 30 minutes if you're sitting for a long time at a computer or in a car.

• Consult a physician or therapist for advice if your neck pain or discomfort continues after a week or two of trying to manage it yourself.


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Body basic: No more pain in the neck

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