3 Steps To Relieve Neck & Shoulder Discomfort

Fitness - May 15, 2024

Are your shoulders bothering you? Does your neck frequently feel uncomfortable?

You work at a desk all day, don’t you?

Maybe you even carry all your tension in your neck and shoulder area. 

This experience is so common for so many people, yet we hardly talk about simple things to do at home (perhaps between meetings at your desk) that can offer some relief. 

(If you are experiencing PAIN in these areas, drop this blog and call your doctor. These suggestions are for nagging discomfort or just neck and shoulder tension.) 

Three simple ways to relieve neck and shoulder discomfort:

Doorway and neck stretches

The easiest stretch in the world to do at home is the doorway stretch. Simply find a doorway, put your elbows directly out to the side, and your forearms straight up toward the ceiling. Slowly ease forward, with one leg in front of the other. 

Once you find a reasonable stretch, take a slow deep breath in, and as you exhale, try to get a little deeper in the stretch. Be careful not to clench your jaw and neck muscles as you do this; the point is to get these muscles, along with your chest and shoulders, to relax. 

Another fairly easy trifecta of stretches are these neck stretches, which I was so graciously taught by our resident physical therapist. For simplicity sake, we’ll call these the front, side, and back of the neck stretches. 

Side stretch: Simply drop, for example, your right ear toward your right shoulder. Keep your focus straight ahead. Take your right arm and grab the left side of your head. With very light pressure, pull the ear a little closer to your shoulder. Breath, relax, and hold for about 30 seconds. Then, switch sides.

Back of the neck stretch: Next, look over your right shoulder as far as you comfortably can, then down toward your underarm. Use your right hand to gently grab the back of your head, about where a man’s bald spot would be. Gently pull your nose toward your underarm and hold it like the stretch above. 

Front of the neck stretch: Last, drop your right ear toward your right shoulder again. From here, slowly turn your left eye up toward the ceiling. This will give you a stretch in the front/left part of your neck. No need to grab your head on this one: just let the range of motion do it’s job. 

For better results on all of these, if you aren’t feeling a nice stretch, add a little weight if you have it: 5-15lbs will make a huge difference in the stretch. Just be sure to let the weight pull your arm downward to maximize the stretch. 

Foam roll your traps and lat muscles

Time to buy a foam roller and a lacrosse ball if you don’t already own one! They are cheap on Amazon, so you can probably have it by tomorrow without leaving your desk. If you’ve never rolled before, be sure to get a medium density roller. 

To foam roll your lats and teres major, you’ll want to lay on the roller below and slightly behind your under arm. See the picture below to best understand the positioning. You’ll get into the under arm area, then roll down your lats, stopping right around the bottom of your rib cage. 

You’ll want to take this slowly: if you feel a good amount of tension, spend a minute to two on the spot, gently massaging the area until it relaxes a bit. 

Almost everyone carries tension in the traps, so finding the spot and releasing it with a lacrosse ball is always interesting. Find a blank space on a wall and start the lacrosse ball in your trap muscles, or the area from the base of your neck down to the back of your shoulder. Roll and control the ball, searching for tender areas. Again, once you find that area, just stay, gently massaging the muscle. 

After you’ve rolled the traps, you can even slide the ball down between your spine and shoulder blade, looking for any additional tension. 

Strengthen your scapula (Shoulder blade area)

I am amazed by how many people find this next exercise to be challenging, even though it is done with just 2-5lbs of weight. The fact that this is often difficult really highlights our postural issues. 

You’re going to grab a small weight, or even a light object around the house. Put your hand down on a flat surface and grab the weight with the other hand. (See video below) You’re going to retract your shoulder blades, then raise the weight up, directly to the side of you, and hold it there for 5 seconds. Bring the weight down, reset the shoulder blades, then lift up again. I would recommend doing that 5 times. Then, switch sides. 

Bonus: If you workout, do more pulling than pushing exercises

A really simple rule of thumb, but one that is very rarely followed, is that if you workout, you should pull more reps than you push. Think, more dumbbell rows and less bench press. More chin-ups and less push-ups. 

If you are constantly pushing and not working on your back, your chest, shoulders, and the front of your neck end up tight and your back ends up weak. Playing this out over time almost always leads to shoulder problems. 

If you need help getting your workout routine in order, or just getting started, start a conversation with us at EvolveTrainingNJ@gmail.com

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