Super Stretches…for the Neck, Shoulders & Upper Back

Super Stretches…for the Neck, Shoulders & Upper Back

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  1. Neck, shoulder and upper back stiffness are one of the most common complaints heard by health care professionals on a daily basis.

    People want to know how they can reduce upper back, neck and shoulder pain from exercise, poor posture, repetitive motion, and stress.

    The best way to reduce this pain is to stretch those areas before working out, between each repetition, and after completing a full day’s workout session.

    Stretching lengthens the muscles and helps to fight against muscle tightness associated with each of the following:

    ·         working out

    ·         aging

    ·         inactivity

    However, it is important to only stretch when the muscles are warm, due to risk of tearing the fibers.  A good way to warm the muscles before stretching is by getting into a sauna or steam room first, or simply roll up a heat pad (as you would a towel) and applying the heat roll to the back of your neck. Be sure to allow contact to the shoulders and upper back as well. 

    Stretching Rules to Remember:                                                      

    ·         Repeat each stretch 2-3 times, holding them for 10-30 seconds per stretch.

    ·         Do not stretch to the point of pain.

    ·         Breathe freely while stretching.

    ·         Do not bounce.

    ·         Stretch both sides of the body equally.

     

    Illustration of Super Stretches

    According to http://www.mydr.com.au/sports-fitness/stretching-an-illustrated-guide; some of the most effective self-stretches for the upper neck, back, and shoulders are listed below.

     

    1.       Neck Side Flexion– lower ear towards the shoulder while facing forward. You should feel the stretch on the opposite side of your neck; return upright then repeat on the other side. For a deeper stretch, lengthen the opposite hand like you are touching the floor with it.

    2.       Triceps (back of upper arm) Stretch– lift your right arm above you head and gently bend your elbow so your forearm is behind your head, but not resting on it. Gently grasp your right elbow with your left hand. Let your right hand drop to the middle of your shoulder blades. Slightly pull your right elbow towards your left shoulder to deepen the stretch. Repeat on left side.

    3.       Shoulder (internal rotator) Stretch– Hold a towel between both hands as shown; gently pull the towel upwards with your left hand; feel the stretch in the shoulder of your right arm as this arm is gently pulled further up your back. Repeat for the opposite shoulder. (3)

    4.       Supraspinatus (top of shoulder blade) Stretch– Cross your right arm in front of your chest, placing your right hand over your left shoulder and keeping your right arm parallel to the ground; use your left hand to push your right elbow gently towards your left shoulder; feel the stretch in the muscle across the top of your right shoulder blade. Repeat for the opposite shoulder.

    5.       Pectoral (chest stretch)– Place your right hand on a doorway at shoulder height with your elbow straight; move your feet so that you turn your chest and body gently away from your arm; feel the stretch on the right-hand side of your chest and along the inside of your right upper arm. Repeat for the opposite side. (You can also do the stretch with your arm slightly elevated, as shown.)

    6.       Biceps (front of upper arm) Stretch– Sit on a floor mat with your feet flat on the floor in front of you and knees bent; place your hands flat on the mat behind you, fairly close together, with your fingers pointing away from you. Walk your hands away from your bottom to feel the stretch in the muscles at the front of your upper arms.

    7.       Upper Back Extension– Sit on a floor mat with your feet flat on the floor in front of you and knees bent; place your hands flat on the mat behind you, fairly close together, with your fingers pointing away from you. Walk your hands away from your bottom to feel the stretch in the muscles at the front of your upper arms.

    8.       Side Stretch- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your upper body to the right while continuing to face the front and not allowing your hips to rotate; at the same time use your right hand to push your right hip gently in the opposite direction; feel the stretch along the left-hand side of your torso. Repeat for the opposite side.

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