Nagging neck, mid back, and shoulder pain often impedes, disrupts, or prevents peaceful sleep, and makes sitting, standing, and working in an upright position pure torture. No matter the cause of the pain, I have created a simple list of easy, in the moment fixes as well as advanced techniques to take it a step further.
As is my soap box–the majority of our pain is a result of some habitual posture. Balance and symmetry are key here to shift spinal pressures. When pressures are shifted, the spine gets to “breathe.” It is extremely important to get up and move out of habitual postures every 15-30 minutes. You can try the following stretches while taking your posture break: Standing pec stretch for the anterior neck, an upper trap stretch for the side of the neck, and a back extension stretch for the thoracic spine, and a wall pec/side/anterior neck stretch. Hold each stretch for approximately 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
My seconds soap box–Sit with good posture. Poor posture places more harmful stress through your spine than lifting heavy objects. Hers how to sit with good posture:
- Scoot your butt all the way back in the seat
- You may place a towel roll in your lumbar spine (optional)
- Place your shoulder blades on the seat back. This is the most important step for neck pain sufferers!
- Adjust your workstation to accommodate this. This is the only that position allows your neck muscle to relax.
Here are some additional exercises:
Upper trap stretch with 1st rib mobilization: The first rib and clavicle often become elevated with neck tension. Use a belt to mobilize the rib and clavicle down. This will give an even deeper trap stretch.
Self lateral neck traction: If the pain is present predominantly on one side of the neck or mid back try this: Lie on the non-painful side with 1-2 pillows at your shoulder (not your head). Now hang your head and relax. This acts to open up the painful side of the neck and mid back. Also, this is an easy position to rest in. This is a form of lateral decompression. Hold 2-5 minutes.
Eagle pose arms only: Hold for a few breaths or 30 seconds. Now move the arms up for 30 seconds, and down for 30 seconds. This stretches the posterior neck and shoulder.
Decompress with a shoulder stand and/or plow pose: Both act to provide traction through the neck and spine. Hold 30 sec to 2 minutes
Floor Pec stretch: This opens up the shoulders and lengthens the anterior neck. Hold 1-3 minutes
Threading Pose: This stretches the back of the shoulders and neck. Hold 1-3 minutes
Towel Roll (rolled hand towel, you may also duck tape it for durability): Rest with a towel roll running down the center of your back (vertically) or running along the shoulder blades at the most painful area of the mid back (horizontally). This mobilizes painful vertebrae and compresses painful trigger points.
Breathe: Take several deep breaths throughout the day. Send the breath to the painful area. Inhale 3-5 seconds, hold 3-5 seconds, and exhale 3-5 seconds, focusing on relaxation on the exhale. Repeat 3-5 cycles.
Strengthen the rotator cuff. You can google specific exercises. I like I, T, Y, rows, and external rotation. (I will update my shoulder blog soon with specifics on this!)
Relax the jaw: Throughout the day and when trying to drift to sleep, remind yourself to relax the muscles around the jaw and let it drop slightly.
Shiatsu massage pillow and Lacrosse Ball: You can buy shiatsu massage pillows on amazon.com, I recommend one that has a timer to prevent skin breakdown if you fall asleep. Using a lacrosse ball against a wall or lying down, find the nauseating trigger points around your scapula (shoulder blade), upper traps, and posterior neck. Push the ball into the trigger points and hold 30sec -2 minutes OR until you feel a relaxation.
Reduce the Pillowage: People with neck pain typically need to sleep with a flat pillow, tempurpedic pillow, or no pillow at all. If you sleep with multiple pillows start slowly reducing that number.
Chakras: Investigate the balance or malady present in the heart, throat, third eye, and crown chakra. Clear energetic blockages or buildup that may be present from early childhood or from the recent past or present.