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Category: Health & Wellness / Topics: Advice, Guidance & Mentoring Optimal Aging Wellness

That Pain in the Neck

by Jessica Harris /Stylist

Posted: August 6, 2022

Ten stretches and exercises that can treat and prevent neck pain…

Editor's Note: We're not talking here about someone or something that can be a "pain the next,." or the way someone may think of you or something you do! Jessica Harris, writing in Stylist, talks about ways she found to deal with the literal physical pain in the neck that many of us deal with. Following is an excerpt, with a link to the full story at the bottom of the page.

I have a pain in my neck. Usually such a statement will open up the floor to all kinds of “witty” responses, but the truth is, I really do. My neck pain started at university, ahem, some years ago while typing my dissertation from bed (this makeshift desk was the norm, even in life pre-Covid) – which meant I would find myself looking down at my laptop for hours on end. Although my degree is now stowed away, gathering dust, the pain is not – and it’s continued to be a not-so-friendly companion in my everyday life.

I’ve tried deep-tissue massages>, hot stone therapy, acupuncture and orthopaedic pillows in mission to rid my body of this nagging ache, but none have seemed to work. It wasn’t until I had an MRI scan that I learned I have a hypermobile neck. This means that my neck is super flexible and allows me to do a mean Exorcist impression (a great party trick during Halloween). The downside is that neck pain has become part and parcel of my daily existence – often made worse by working on a computer or a smartphone for 90% of my working day.

I enlisted the help of Mike Tanner, head of education & learning at Bodyism to equip me with some key stretches and exercises to alleviate my neck pain. “There are many reasons you might be experiencing neck pain,” he explains. “It could be short, tight muscles caused by spending too much time in the same position or a long taut muscle which can feel tight but are actually longer and stretched to their limits. Typically, you want to stretch a short tight muscle and exercise the long taut ones. And it’s important to note that your neck is affected by not only muscles in your neck, but also muscles in your chest and back – so it’s best to cover all these areas for the most effective results. 

Tanner instructed me to perform the below five stretches every day in order to alleviate my neck pain – even twice a day for extra brownie points.

For one week, I performed each of the five stretches every day morning and evening to see if my nagging pain would go away. 

I have to say, after day one, I found myself actually looking forward to these  daily stretches. Although they felt slightly painful, it was the best kind of discomfort – the kind you’d experience during a sports massage that feels uncomfortable in the moment, yet leaves you feeling utterly loose and limber afterwards. Each stretch sent a tingle down my back and into my head as the tension began to ease and my posture began to correct itself.

What I didn’t realise was how stiff my adjoining muscles had become – my chest, shoulders, and even my forearms had seized up and were contributing to my neck pain. With every stretch, I could feel them pull and loosen, relieving my neck and leaving my upper body feeling like I’d just spent an hour on the massage table. 

It’s only been a week,  but with a daily plan in place, I’m already more aware of my posture and the growing range of movement I have. I’m going to try to maintain this routine going forward to prevent my neck from seizing up again. 

Here’s the stretching routine that Tanner prescribed to me.

5 Essential Stretches to Reduce and Prevent Neck Pain

1. Chest stretch against door frame

A tight chest can contribute towards a rounded thoracic spine, this then tends to put your cervical spine (neck) into a bad position.

  1. Place your forearm on a vertical door frame and keep the elbow at shoulder height or slightly above.
  2. Step forward through the door, leaving your arm where it is so your chest feels a nice stretch.

[For details on how to do the remaining stretches, follow the link at the bottom of the page to get the full article]

2. Lat stretch “in child’s pose”

Lats connect into the arm and can pull your shoulders forward so this helps to pull them back into place.

3. Scalenes stretch

4. Levator Scapular stretch

5. Thoracic mobility 90/90 stretch

In addition to these stretches, Tanner suggested that I complete the below five exercises daily in order to strengthen my long taut muscles mentioned previously, as well as to strengthen the adjoining muscles (such as my chest and back). 

The exercises were slightly uncomfortable to begin with and I definitely felt it the following day, but after day four my neck felt more stable and supported.

5 Best Exercises to Reduce and Prevent Neck Pain

1. Lower trapezius Ys with small water bottles as weights

  1. Stand leaning forwards with a flat back at 45 degrees.
  2. Start with both hands between your knees, with your palms together, and slowly lift up with straight arms until your arms are in a Y position above your head (moving arms only). 
  3. Lower and repeat.

2-3 sets of 10 reps

[For details on how to do the remaining exercises, follow the link at the bottom of the page to get the full article]

2. Rhomboid Ts with small water bottles as weights

3. Scapula wall slides

4. Prone cobra

5. Sitting up straight

Sitting up straight automatically strengthens the muscles you need for good posture.

Follow @StrongWomenUK on Instagram for the latest workouts, delicious recipes and motivation from your favourite fitness experts.

To get all the details and see other related resources, read the full article from Stylist (we found it on Pocket).

Search all articles by Jessica Harris

Posted: August 6, 2022

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