Even though knots in any muscle group are more than annoying, isolated tension in the shoulders is even more uncomfortable and frustrating. Check out the 9 exercises below which are shown to be extremely effective at relieving both neck and shoulder pain:
The Source of Neck and Shoulder Pain
Feeling discomfort in the neck or shoulder doesn’t always mean that the source of the pain is located in the same area. For instance, neck pain could stem from shoulder impingement, and pain in the shoulder could stem from the neck. As a matter of fact, tension neck or the shoulder could be triggered by an alignment issue or injury in the back of the pelvis or as low as the ankles.
Common Lifestyle Causes of Neck and Shoulder Pain
1. Tech-Neck (Forward Head Posture)
The average American spends over 11 hours in front of a screen daily. Staring at a screen for an extended period of time each day leads to forward head posture, which in turn causes the neck extensors to stretch and the neck flexors to weaken.
2. Reaching Forward (Rounded Shoulder Posture)
The chronic use of phones and computers combined with other habits like cooking or driving causes rounded shoulder posture. Keeping the arms primarily in front of you, the chest gets tight and the back weakens, leading to neck and shoulder pain.
3. Feeling Stressed
Stress causes both physical and mental tension! The latter occurs when you are sitting in your car or at your desk and are unable to release the energy. As the pressure in the body remains, neck and shoulder pain develop.
9 Exercises to Relieve Neck and Shoulder Pain
1. Open Book | 5 reps per side
Lie on the side with the knees bent in front of the hips, the hands over the ears, and the elbows pointing forward. Take a deep breath and reach the elbow to the ceiling. Exhale and keep opening the top elbow to the back side until it touches the floor. Stay for a full inhale and exhale, relax on the shoulders, take a deep breath, then exhale, and go back to the original position.
2. Thoracic Extension | 3-5 reps
Sit on the floor with the mid back placed on a foam roller. Inhale, then exhale, and extend the spine over the roller, moving as far as needed to experience a gentle stretch in the upper back, abdominals, and the chest. Inhale to hold, exhale, and go back to the original position.
3. Head Tilt | 2 min
Begin in a seated or kneeling position, with the arms resting by the sides and the head above the shoulders. Inhale to prepare, then exhale, and lower your left ear toward the left shoulder. Exhale and go back to the top. Repeat to the left side, making a break on the inhale breath and moving on the exhale. Exhale and move the head so that it looks over the right shoulder. Inhale and go back to the center. Exhale, and look over the left shoulder.
4. Neck Roll | 3 circles per side
Begin in a seated or kneeling position, with the arms resting by the sides and the head above the shoulders. Inhale to prepare, then exhale and lower the left ear toward the left shoulder. Inhale as you circle, taking your right ear towards the right shoulder and placing the head above the shoulders in the original position.
5. Shoulder Shrug | 10 reps
Begin in a seated or kneeling position, with the arms resting by the sides and the head above the shoulders. Inhale and raise the shoulders towards the ears. Exhale, and put them down, feeling the blades on the back.
6. Kneeling Arm Circle | 3-5 reps per arm
Again, begin in a seated or kneeling position, with the arms resting by the sides and the head above the shoulders. Inhale and reach the left arm to the ceiling. Exhale, rotate the palm away from your body and continue circling the arm. Inhale, and start to reverse the circle, stretching the arm behind you. Exhale. Rotate the arm back to the body, and stretch the arm forward.
7. Wing Span | 2 min
Begin in a high kneeling or seated position, with the arms stretched out to the side, the palms forward, and the head stacked above the shoulders. Inhale. Reach the arm up, the left arm down the hip and the palm back. Bend the elbows and reach the fingers towards each other. Exhale, the inhale again and go back to the original position.
8. Scapula Slide | 10-15 reps
Begin on all fours, with the wrists under the shoulders and the knees under the hips. Press firmly into the palms and fingertips to experience the engagement through your back. Keep the elbows straight, take a deep breath, and slide the scapula together. Exhale, press into the hand, and go back to the original position.
9. Neck Retractions | 6-8 reps
Lie on the back with the knees bent, the arms by the side, and the eyes straight up to the ceiling. Inhale, extend the chin to the ceiling, and keep the back of the head on the floor in the meantime. Exhale and pull back the chin towards the throat.