Pain in the neck! And shoulders!

Here’s a little post about loosening up your upper back and neck muscles, in case you are one of the many people whose shoulders are perpetually up around their ears. You know the feeling – the back of your neck is sore, and the discomfort travels along the triangular muscles that connect your neck to your shoulders (the upper trapezius muscles). Maybe you also notice that when you lift your arm, you don’t feel it in your bicep – you feel it in your neck & shoulder instead! This is super common, and in most cases, it is a matter of learning new ways to move in order to get stronger in a targeted way. Simply, instead of letting your body keep using your shoulders to do things your biceps are meant to do, for example, you retrain your body to move the way nature intended. Because for most of us, unless we had a serious illness/accident/disability, we actually used to move in a way that was less uncomfortable! The good news is that your body can learn that again, and it’s not a multi-year quest, I promise.

What you also want to think about is that as your shoulders got tighter and tighter, your chest muscles probably did too – as a result, you’ll probably get better results if you work on stretching your chest muscles a little every time you work your upper body. Otherwise, your chest muscles pull your shoulders forward, which causes other muscles to be weaker (or overly tight, depending on your particular situation). A personal trainer can assess you to see if you have additional tight/loose muscles – for many people, the large muscles of the back (the latissimus dorsi) also get tight when the neck & shoulders are tight. The loose/weak muscles tend to be the ones in the middle of the mid-back, affecting posture & mid-back pain when standing or sitting for long periods of time.

So, what can you do? Start by looking into getting appropriate exercise for your current fitness level & for the fitness goals you’d like to achieve. But for right now, here’s a very simple thing to try to help reduce tightness overall: deep breathing.

Ok – if you’re like most people, you just said “what?” or groaned, or felt that this couldn’t possibly be helpful. I think we expect everything related to our bodies to be difficult, or strenuous, for them to be effective. But think about how many breaths you take in a day – it’s a lot, right? Can you imagine how much impact something has when you do it so many times each and every day? So, if you’re not breathing correctly, you’re actually forcing the muscles in your chest and back to try and do work they’re not meant for. This contributes to neck and shoulder tightness. Deep breathing is not magic, and it’s also not 100% intuitive at first, either. But it is worth checking out, if you’re interested in starting on a journey of making your body work better for you. Any time you invest in it will reap benefits, too.

Here’s a great deep breathing intro: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/take-a-breather , if you’d like to learn more.

If you are ready to work with a personal trainer like me, breathing is something we focus on, and I can also help you learn how to coordinate breathing with movement to get the most out of it. Contact me to learn more!