If any of the activities highlighted in this blog post cause you pain - stop immediately. You know the limits of your own body; do not push past the point of a “good stretch”. It is important to understand what a “good stretch” means. When you get a massage or stretch your muscles there is a point of time where you think, “this is a good pain.” The pain is tolerable, but not so painful that your body is telling you to stop. You want to be in this “sweet spot” where you can feel your muscle stretching and be comfortable holding the stretch for 20-30 seconds, but not to the point of pain.
The stretches shown in this article are related to the muscles of the upper body which can help to relieve the effects of neck pain, headaches, upper back pain, and poor posture. Many times, our cause of pain is not only a joint restriction, which can be treated by chiropractic care, but also muscle imbalances. Our body compensates when it is in pain by strengthening or tightening a muscle and relaxing another. Over time, if the restriction is still present, those muscles that were just “tight” are now much stronger, and those that were “relaxed” are now considered “weak.” To solve these imbalances, it takes not only time, but stretching of the tight muscles and strengthening of the weak ones. One session of stretching will not resolve your problems, you must do them daily to retrain your muscles and your brain to function properly and use the muscles in a balanced way. Remember, if you are stretching but also not restoring motion in your joints by getting a chiropractic adjustment, you are only resolving one of the issues that is causing your pain.
This entire blog also coordinates with a video to show the movements necessary to perform these stretches properly if you would like some extra guidance. Click here to see the video.
I suggest doing these 6 stretches for 10-30 second increments working your way up to the full 30 seconds for those stretches that may feel more difficult. Also, work to do these stretches once per day. You can always do them at home if you have time or at work when you may begin to feel pain in your neck, upper back, or have a headache.
I’ve made a video to show you how to perform these stretches properly. I recommend doing these 6 stretches for 10-30 second increments, working your way up to the full 30 seconds for those stretches that may be more difficult. A good goal is to do these stretches once per day. You can do them at home if you have time, or at work if you begin to feel pain or tenseness in your neck, upper back, or if a headache is forming. Click here to see the video. I’ve also included images of the muscle each stretch targets. If you do not feel the stretch in the proper area, modify your stretch by making small adjustments with your positioning until you feel the stretch in the target muscle.
Again, I would like to remind you that although stretching may help decrease your pain, it will not completely resolve the problem itself. Be sure to seek chiropractic care to support you in your healing and know that it does take time for your body to relearn proper biomechanical movements.
Coming soon is Part 2 of this series, which will teach you exercises to strengthen and retrain the muscles involved with neck pain, upper back pain, and headaches. Stretching and exercises are a supplement best used alongside chiropractic adjustments for relief from your problem areas. To schedule an appointment with me, Dr. Samantha Hague, visit my website at https://www.haguechiropractic.com/ or give me a call at (316)-542-1317.
Trapezius Muscle (aka Trap)
1. Turn your head toward your right shoulder.
2. Keeping your head turned, bend your neck slightly forward and away from your right shoulder. (Imagine that you are trying put your left ear in your left pocket.)
3. You should be feeling the stretch: from the back of your neck and along the top of your right shoulder.
4. Repeat this process for the left side.
1. Turn your head toward your left shoulder.
2. Keeping your head turned look down toward your left pocket. (Imagine putting your nose in your left pocket.)
3. You should be feeling the stretch: along the back of your neck and down into the right shoulder blade.
4. Repeat this process for the left side.
Cervical Paraspinals (the group of muscles directly along the spine of the neck)
1. Bend your head forward, looking directly down; tuck your chin to your chest.
2. You may use a bit of pressure with your hand behind your head to deepen the stretch.
3. You should be feeling the stretch: from the base of your skull down the back of the neck and into the upper back.
4. To isolate one side for a deeper stretch: while looking down, turn your head slightly 5°-10°.
1. Clasp your hands together in front of you with your arms straight out and parallel to the floor. Tuck your chin for a better stretch.
2. Hold this position and press your hands out and away from you about 3 inches. This will be spreading your shoulder blades apart.
3. You should be feeling the stretch: between your shoulder blades in the upper back.
1. Face a wall and with your arm parallel to the floor and completely against the wall.
2. Once in position, turn your body away from the wall while keeping your shoulder as close to the wall as you can.
3. You should be feeling the stretch: along the top of your chest and out across the front of your shoulder.
4. Repeat this process for the other arm. Be careful, as this is a stretch you can easily take past the point of a “good stretch”.
1. Face a wall with your elbow slightly bent, arm raised to the side and above the level of your shoulder, elevated about 110° pressing against the wall (similar tot eh pectoralis major stretch.)
2. Once in position, turn your body away from the wall while keeping your shoulder and arm in contact with the wall. (You will not be able to turn as far as you did with the pec major stretch.)
3. You should be feeling the stretch: along the front of the shoulder and within the outside portion of your chest.
4. Repeat this process with the other arm. Be careful, as this is a stretch you can easily take past the point of a “good stretch”.
I hope you get some relief from these stretches! Feel free to reach out anytime with questions.
Dr. Samantha Hague, D.C.