Do you have a pain in the neck? I'm not talking about your husband or kids. LOL. I'm talking about real pain that causes stiffness and makes it difficult for you to turn your head. It can radiate down your shoulders, arms, or back and can make sleeping or driving very uncomfortable.
Many of us will get neck pain and the most common cause is overuse. If you spend a lot of hours in front of a computer or on the phone then you will likely develop neck pain. That's because the muscles around your neck are contracting for extended periods of time. They need a break!
First, you will want to stretch the area on a regular basis. A great neck stretch is to gently tilt your head so that you are bringing your ear down closer to your shoulder. Hold this stretch for 10 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side. This stretch is shown in the picture above.
Once you can do this stretch with ease you can expand on the move by tilting the head down so that your nose points toward your chest. When you do this you bring more muscle into play. Turning your head from side to side (while keeping it level) is another great way to stretch the muscles.
Once you have regained some flexibility in your neck you will want to add on a strengthening move. This will help you to avoid the chicken head. Take a look at the people around you and notice how many of them look like they're sticking their head forward, like a chicken, to see something on the horizon. Their neck is completely out of alignment which can cause pain.
To counteract this, keep your body still and gently pull your head straight back and hold for three seconds. Repeat this move throughout the day to retrain the muscles to hold your head in alignment. You can also do it while laying down on the floor, and pressing your head against the surface. This is akin to pushing a weight and does wonders for your neck muscles.
Take care of your neck. After all, it holds up that big ole pumpkin head of yours which is very important!
The shoulders can be tricky. Many adults suffer from stiffness, pain, and other problems due to the long hours they spend in front of a computer. If you think you might have shoulder issues, try this test:
Wall Angels - Stand in front of a wall with your back and shoulders flat against the surface. You may have to bring your feet out slightly. Raise your arms above your head and press them and the back of your hands against the wall as well. Slowly lower your arms down in the same motion you would use if you were making an angel in the snow.
If this move was difficult then you probably have some shoulder issues. You can do the wall angel move to loosen things up. Below are some other moves that might be helpful:
Elbow Hinge - Stand with your arms at a 90 degree angle in front of you, palms facing each other, with your elbows pressed against your side. Slowly move your arms away from each other, but keep your elbows pressed at your side. When this gets easy you can add hand weights.
Shoulder Raises - Stand with your arms hanging down at your sides. Slowly raise both arms up in front of your body and stop when they are at shoulder level. Your palms should be facing down. Then lower the arms back to your side. When this gets easy you can add hand weights.
Shoulder Stretch - (As shown in the photo above). Take your right arm out in front of your body. Use your left hand to grasp your right arm just above or below the elbow. Gently pull your right arm towards the body until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder. Repeat on the opposite side.
With practice these moves should become easier and your shoulder should regain some of it's flexibility and strength.
I am currently seeing a physical therapist for my back. She ran a bunch of tests and was astounded by my lack of core body strength...as in, no abdominal muscles! This did not surprise me but then she tested my balance. I believe the word she used was, "Wow!" It was that bad. Talk about embarrassing!
We don't often think about our balance. It's one of those things we assume is okay when in fact, it begins to deteriorate in our mid-30's. By the time we hit our senior years if we've let these muscles go we are at greater risk of falling. Not cool.
The good news is there are simple things you can do to improve your balance. Even better, these moves will work your core as well, without having to do any dreaded abdominal crunches.
Pelvic Tilts - You can do these standing up or on the floor. Breathe in deeply and as you exhale slowly draw your navel in towards your spine. Hold for a count of 3.
Marching Soldier - Stand and slowly raise your right arm up overhead. At the same time slowly bend your left knee and raise your left leg about six inches off the ground. Hold for a count of 3 and then slowly lower. Repeat on the other side. The key to this exercise is to keep your navel pulled in the entire time and move slowly.
Balance on One Foot - Lift one foot up and hold. Then lift the other. You can vary the more by pointing the foot out in different directions, moving your arms, and even closing your eyes. Be careful and make sure you can grab onto something if you become unsteady. When you close your eyes you will be shocked at how shaky you get!
Balance Board - These can be found at most sporting goods stores or on the internet. They are only about $20 and really work your balance well. Stand on the board, keep your knees slightly bent and hold. As your get stronger you can vary this move as well by moving your arms, holding a ball in front of you, closing your eyes, etc.
Tree Pose - Hold the pose picture above for as long as you can. Then alternate sides.
For best results, do these moves every other day until they become easy. Then do them twice a week to maintain.
I recently injured my back and my doctor suggested I try some water therapy to help with the pain. So I shopped around and found an affordable local pool that also had a lovely hot tub. Three weeks later and I am starting to feel human again!
Why is water so good for you? Because it cuts down on the gravitational pull. When you move in water, there is less strain on your muscles and joints. That means you can move more freely with less pain. In my case, walking on land really hurt my back. But I could get in a pool and walk laps with ease. I then followed it up with 10 minutes in the hot tub to further relax the muscles. Heavenly!
If exercising is not your thing, you may find that a water workout is the answer. Shop around and see if there is an affordable pool in your area. Many of them will offer water aerobics classes that are fun and a good way to meet people. Or, you can opt for a solitary workout such as walking laps or doing leg lifts on the side of the pool. If you know how to swim then swimming laps, particularly the front crawl and back stroke, will strengthen your core while also giving you a great cardiovascular workout.
Don't be shy. Dive right in for a fun a healthy workout!
It seems to me that more and more of my friends are complaining about back pain. I did some research and discovered that at least 80% of Americans will face this issue at some point in their lives. While most of us will not suffer long, it is still the most common reason to call off sick. What's worse, back pain is the leading cause of disability in this country and costs over 50 billion a year. Don't let this happen to you! Remember PSS to fight back pain: posture, stretching, and strengthening.
Most back pain is caused by overly tight muscles or poor alignment while lifting objects. That is why your first line of defense is always going to be good posture. Your shoulders should line up over your hips and there should be a natural curve in your spine. This is important even when you are sitting down. Make sure you are not leaning forward and try to avoid crossing your legs or ankles.
Stretching is the next thing you can do to prevent back pain. You will want to stretch your back, gluteal, hip flexor, and hamstring muscles. These tend to get very tight and short when you sit for a long time each day. When they are tight they pull your back out of alignment which can lead to pain and injury.
Finally, strengthening will go a long way to avoid back pain. Strong muscles work better and are able to carry heavier loads. They also help with your balance and prevent slip-ups and falls that can do damage. Remember, a strong back is a healthy back!
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