21 Oct How to reduce your neck and shoulder pain
How to reduce your neck and shoulder pain
One of the main causes of pain in the upper traps and neck pain is actually overuse of the upper trap muscles and not enough of the lower trap muscles. So you’ve got to fix that too, by learning to activate and strengthening your lower traps. But here is a release you can do right now for immediate relief.
I prefer to use the peanut ball. You can even use a tennis ball or a lacrosse ball. Lacrosse might be a little bit hard. Any ball of some description.
Upper Trap Peanut Release
- Put the ball in meaty part of your shoulder, above your shoulder blade and lie down on your back.
- Then I want you to push your heels into the floor and lift your hips. This is a Pilates bridge. It’s already hurting.
- And you’re just going to slide that arm up to your ear, and back down. You can also take the arm across the body. And take that arm up and back. The whole time you’re going to keep pushing your hips up, so it’s quite hard to do.
If that’s really painful without lifting your hips, just keep your hips down. Or, happy medium, happy compromise, is to do it in your bed because the bed will take some of the pressure off of the ball and it won’t be as intense.
Your lower traps go out like a kite, starting just underneath your shoulder blades, right next to your spine – this is the bottom tip, then they go up and out to the shoulders. Then they come all the way up to the base of the skull. So it literally looks like a kite on your back. Most people will use the upper part of their traps too much instead of using the lower part, so the upper ones are overworked. We need to learn to activate the lower ones so they do more of the work, and they take some of the load off of here which will reduce the neck pain.
Lower Trap Activation
- Laying down on your tummy, you can have your hands either just out to the side, so your elbows align with your shoulders or you can try with your hands a little bit higher. It’s up to you. You should have your face down.
- From here you want to think, shoulders down and back, T-Zone on.
- And then you’re going to lift your hands and your elbows, but you don’t actually lift your arms off the ground.
- Start leaning against the wall, hands flat on the wall, elbows flat on the wall. Keep your shoulders away from your ears, double chin it. Double chin is so hot, you have no idea how sexy. Keep your ribs in so you’re not arching your back, especially as you bring your elbows towards your ribs or the hips.
- Let the arms sweep up, let the shoulder blade come swinging out to the side here. Shoulders stay away from the ears.
- Bring them back down. Keep the shoulders down. Squeeze the shoulder blades together and you’ll feel those back muscles between your shoulder blades pinching in
The whole time, the back of the whole forearm, and from fingertips to elbow stays against the wall.
Deep Neck Flexors
The reason we get neck pain is bad posture. Generally the chin is hanging too far forward, which puts a lot of pressure on the back of the neck muscles to hold the head up. That can cause a lot of neck pain. What we need to do in bring the chin back in. If you think double chin (remember how sexy double chins are?). You don’t want to over emphasise it, but doing that is actually closer to where we want to be.
Your deep neck flexors attach on the inner side of your neck vertebrae. You’ve got your deep neck flexors and then you’ve got your oesophagus. On top of your throat tubes, you have your scalenes and your sternocliedo mastoids which turn your head and bend your neck in various directions. These deep flexors are responsible for holding the chin in, and they also can help you nod your head without actually activating the superficial, (or the closer to the surface) neck muscles.
How to activate the deep neck flexors:
- Place my hand over my throat. I’m not trying to squeeze and choke myself. It’s not 50 shades of grey, it’s just 50 shades of relaxed.
- All you need to do is to try and nod your chin without activating the muscles on the surface of my neck. If you can feel the surface muscles start to bulge, you’ve gone too far. It’s how far can you go without activating these big muscles on the surface of the neck.
- Think about lengthening up through the back of the neck. I imagine that I’m nodding my head down but at the same time stretching my head away.
It’s a very, very subtle movement and you can’t actually see it. I usually do 10 of those. If I can hold it, I’ll hold it for about 10 seconds. If I haven’t done them for a while, 10 seconds is actually a really long time because these are really tiny muscles, they’re very delicate and 10 seconds is a lot for them. Hopefully that reduces your pain.