When it comes to nagging aches and pains that I get asked about on a regular basis, one of the most common is upper back, neck, and shoulder pain.
You may feel these symptoms as tightness, aching, or sharp pain in the middle or sides of your upper back, on top of your shoulders, or in your neck. You may even be experiencing numbness, tingling, or burning into your arm or hand. While there are many reasons for experiencing this type of pain, posture and muscle imbalance is very often to blame.
Posture is King
Most of us sit at a desk at least part of the day, if not the entire day. We also spend a lot of time on our phones, sitting in front of the TV, driving, sitting at the dinner table, etc. What do all of these activities have in common? A slouched lower and upper back, shoulders slumped forward, and a forward head.
Research shows that a person’s resting posture isn’t in and of itself a bad thing, and there is no connection between pain and a person’s spinal alignment. HOWEVER! Our bodies are made to move, and if you sit in one position for a long period of time, sooner or later it’s going to cause you pain. In the case of our necks, shoulders and upper backs, sitting at our desks, devices, or comfy chairs places the muscles of our back and shoulder blades on prolonged stretch and causes strain and imbalance that results in stiffness and pain.
If you’re like most of us and sit at a desk, the key is to find a way to 1) work in correct posture by adjusting your ergonomics. Get in touch with us to schedule a consult for an ergonomic assessment! Set up your desk so that your posture is upright, with hands resting on the keyboard, monitor positioned at a distance that allows you to see it clearly without straining, your thighs resting flat on the chair and a footrest to keep your hips in neutral. A standing desk is also an awesome tool. Ideally you would spend 30-60 minutes working seated, then 30-60 minutes standing. The best way to fix your posture is to never be in one position for too long!
Release tension with a lacrosse ball
Place a lacrosse or tennis ball on your pectoral muscles in the front of your shoulder. Next, press your shoulder into a wall to apply pressure to this area via the ball. You can remain in this position without movement if this is intense enough, or can add intensity by moving your hand up and down the wall as shown.
Lacrosse ball scapular release
Same procedure as the pectoral release, but now you’ll want to place the ball on the muscles between your spine and your shoulder blade. Just like with the last exercise, this can be good enough if you feel like it’s enough of a challenge. Or you can get more intensity by lifting your arm up and down.
Kneeling thoracic rotation
Kneel on the ground and sit on your heels. Next, put your hand behind your head. To perform the movement, rotate your shoulders to bring your elbow toward your opposite elbow, then rotate the opposite direction to bring your elbow toward the ceiling. You should feel this in your upper back.
Sidelying thoracic opening
Lay on your side, with your top knee on a foam roll if you have one, or knees together if your don’t. Start with your arms straight and your hands together in front of you. Keeping your hips stacked and the bottom arm on the ground, rotate your upper body and reach your top arm behind you, following it with your eyes. Return to the start and repeat 20 times.
Banded shoulder squeezes
Grab a band if you have one and stand holding the band with your palms up and your hands shoulder width apart. Pull the band apart with straight arms by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Don’t let your shoulders rise toward your ears. Repeat 20 times.
Do this routine every day to fight upper back, shoulder, and neck pain and let us know how it goes!