Here are some exercises to try if you deal with neck, head and shoulder pain that you can do, even if you only understand a little about exercise. A few key exercises can counteract common posture and lifting technique wear and tear. The same moves apply to athletes and office workers alike.
As you read this, you are forcing your body to ‘load-up’ in an almost eternal flexed position (sitting too much and almost all athletics will make this happen). Psoas, quads, pecs and lat muscles are all shortening to put you at high risk for repetitive stress injuries. This function is straining muscles between your shoulder blades, back hamstrings, thus causing pain.
Here are some quick exercise and posture tips to ‘pre-hab’ chronic, nagging neck, head and shoulder injuries and bad mechanics:
“Tech Neck” is when you allow pecs, front-of-neck muscles and middle-back muscles to freeze in this position from too much sitting and electronics. Fast tech-neck is called “whip-lash”. Strengthen your neck into the opposing direction by pulling it back with some resistance. Remember to pull your chin back with a level head and pull the top/back of your head up. Do it while driving, sitting or on a physio-ball or simply on the floor to strengthen the muscles that pull you into good posture.
“Pec Neck” is when your tight and short pec major and pec minor muscles become so enough that they dominate the force that pulls your shoulders forward for most of the time. Then your trainer’s voice inside your head yells weird cues at you to pull your shoulders down and back and you immediately fix it! Do way less push-exercises like overhead presses and pushups – add more pull-exercises like cable rows, reverse-flys on a ball and TRX pulls.
“Lat Neck” is another problem, as tight lats and pecs go together like peas and carrots. Foam roll, massage and stretch your pec, lat and arm-pit area. Massage your jaw, head and neck muscles too, even if you don’t wear mouth-gear. Learn about trigger points and myofascial release techniques. Give yourself a 48 hour break between massages (torture sessions) to let it heal.
My Number One, Overall Exercise Tip: Balance-out your push to pull strength and strengthen your entire body into extension to fix most issues. This usually equates to doing more pulls and extension exercises to strengthen back, glutes, hips, hamstrings and shins. Combine this with lots of stretching for calves, quads, and pecs for lasting results. Bridges and table-top variations are great along with reverse-flys over a physio-ball in a plank position. You also need to learn to properly dead-lift, squat and lunge to avoid repetitive stress from working out.
Are you Strength-Balanced? Can you do as many pull-ups as push-ups? Can you dead-lift your body weight? Can you do a chin-up? Can you touch your toes? Is your strength-balance good on other joints like quads vs. hamstrings? Factors like these will let you know if you are out of strength-balance, which is usually the underlying physical component of joint pain.
“Slow Down Brain” is yet another catchy expression for safe results because it takes time for your body to undo all the stuff that your brain can come up with. Go slow – it takes months and years to fix major postural problems (that come from your brain – sorry), along with damage from injuries.
Weak legs, core and weak overall extension muscles is a cocktail for neck, shoulder and back pain. The good news is that it’s all the same fix. It’s about slowly and progressively making more spine and core strength-balance by doing more extension exercises and sticking to it.
Now stop reading with bad posture and go do your special exercises!