So many of us suffer with neck and shoulder pain, and the pandemic has only made things worse. Between stress, work from home arrangements that aren’t always ideal (as I sit on my sofa with my laptop on a stand, on a pillow in my lap), and lack of exercise, we are in a perfect storm for neck and shoulder pain.
Good posture starts at the pelvis. When your pelvis is in a “neutral” position, with the hip bones and pubic bones in the same horizontal plane, your lower back can move forward and up, your ribcage can lift up for better breathing, and your neck can lift forward and up.
So, if you sit a lot, tuck your pelvis and flatten out your lower back, and shove your shoulders back and down, you are simply compressing everything downward and inward, tightening all the muscles, which will make your neck feel even worse.
Just sitting, or laying on your back, and moving your pelvis will help. It can go forward and backward, side to side, and around in circles.
One of the first cues that most Pilates, Yoga, and Fitness clients hear is, “Press your shoulders down.” There are many variations on this cue, but they all say the same thing - get your shoulders away from your ears and towards your back pockets.
As someone who experiences neck pain from arthritis and degeneration of my cervical spine, and who has spoken about this with her neurologist, pressing my shoulders down is the worst thing I can do for my neck! My neck needs to lift up, and when I press my shoulders down, I start to strain the muscles that attach my neck to my shoulders and ribcage.
Our shoulders are very mobile and should be, so allow them to move! Think about your arms, collarbones and shoulder blades moving together, rolling around on your ribcage.
Getting some movement in your day is crucial. Stand up every 60-90 minutes, walk around, take some deep breaths, and move your arms, legs, and head around.
Shrug your shoulders and drop them a few times, then roll them forward and backward. Turn your head to look behind you a few times each way, bend your head forward and backwards, and then side to side. Do some head circles.
Reach your arms around, lifting up as you can tolerate and maybe doing some big arm circles. Lift up out of your lower back and breathe!
My belief is that life is too short to keep relying on willpower (or, forcing yourself to do things you hate.) These neck & shoulder exercises can be pleasurable, often helping us feel better quickly, and can be done supine (on your back), seated, or standing.
Neck & shoulder pain can be debilitating, but I promise you that with a slow and steady approach to lifting your spine, breathing better, and moving your upper body more, you will start to feel some relief.
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