A fitness trainer shares what she does every morning to prevent neck and shoulder pain

Whether it’s working at a computer desk or scrolling on a phone, we spend a lot of time looking down — usually slouching at the same time.

When we slouch, our shoulders round and our head moves forward, leading to a painful condition known as “text neck.”

This causes the upper back to become weak and the chest to become tight. Over time, the shoulders can overcompensate, leading to pain knots in the neck and shoulders, and even headaches.

How to help prevent neck and shoulder pain

As a fitness trainer, I do five stretching exercises every morning to prevent neck and shoulder pain, especially those caused by text neck:

1. Myofascial release from the chest

I like to start with myofascial release exercises – a massage that targets the pain in the fascial tissue that wraps around your muscles – because it helps you release.

Steps:

  1. Take a lacrosse ball (or a myofascial release ball, the size of a tangerine) and press firmly as you roll it up and down the area where your shoulders and chest connect.
  2. If you want a deeper massage, place the ball between your chest and the corner of the wall. Find the knot (tender spot), and move your body up and down to rub the ball against the knot.
  3. Do this for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
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2. Myofascial release from the upper traps

Next, relax and warm up the muscles in your back by focusing on the trapezius (aka “trap”) muscles, located in your upper back between your shoulders and neck. These traps become very tense when you roll your shoulders forward.

Steps:

  1. Take the myofascial release ball in your right hand and place it above your left shoulder near your neck.
  2. Move the ball until you find a node. Then press the ball to your shoulders and your arms are hanging. The weight of your arm will help the ball into the knot you have.
  3. Do this for 30 to 60 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

3. Wall of angels

Now it’s time to strengthen your upper back. When we round our shoulders, our upper back goes out, so we don’t use those muscles. This weakens them, causing us to overcompensate with our traps.

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Steps:

  1. Sit on the wall and press back into the wall. This is not necessary deep “wall sit,” but a comfortable seat.
  2. Raise your arms into the best possible “W” shape keeping your elbows and wrists against the wall.
  3. Move your hands up the wall roughly walking, all the while keeping your back down to the wall and your wrists and elbows as close to the wall.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Do three sets of 10 reps.

4. Chest stretch

These deeper stretches help stretch the muscles and increase range of motion.

Steps:

  1. Face the wall and lift your right arm to the side. Place your palms and entire arms against the wall.
  2. Slowly start rolling your body to the left side away from the wall. Stop when the intensity of the stretch reaches six out of 10.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds to two minutes, then repeat on the other side. As you hold, try different positions with your arms, especially moving your arms a little higher for a deeper stretch.

5. Neck circumference

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There are more than 20 muscles in the neck, and this circle gives you the opportunity to see which, if any, are tight.

Steps:

  1. Grasp your hands behind your back to “pull” your shoulders.
  2. Start with your chin towards your chest and slowly turn your head so that your right ear is towards your right shoulder.
  3. Slowly look at the ceiling, continue the circle so that the left ear goes to the left shoulder, then back the chin to the chest.
  4. Reverse direction.
  5. If any position in this circle feels more tense, pause and allow it to stretch for about 30 seconds before continuing.
  6. Do three to four circles in each direction.

Remember that this exercise is not for everyone. If you have a physical condition or health problem, consult your doctor before trying anything.

And while these actions may prevent or reduce pain, I also recommend creating an environment where you don’t need to look down.

This means holding your phone while looking at it, making sure you have an ergonomic desk setup, and getting some movement in throughout the day.

Stephanie Mellinger is a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist. He is also the founder Omni Fit and writers for Health Day. Follow her on Instagram @omnia_fit_.

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