How often do you feel that your neck and upper back are tight? Almost like there are hard knots that don’t want to go away… Unfortunately, many people have this discomfort quite often. Some have it chronic, feeling the dull pain daily. You may have an upper trapezius repetitive stress injury. This happens because of performing repetitive (thus the name) motions, such as sitting on the computer, talking on the phone, typing on your tablet, driving car, playing tennis, and other sport or lifestyle activities.
The trapezius is a large triangular muscle on the upper part of your back. It stretches over the neck and shoulders and it assists in moving the shoulder blades and head.
The constant overuse of the upper part of trapezius, even at low intensities, triggers the pain. The constant repetitive action doesn’t let the muscle relax between the movements and it causes the irritation and subsequent tightness and pain. Even small habitual movements, such as holding your phone on the same side of your head, using the computer mouse on the same side all the time, or sitting with slouched shoulders, can trigger the pain.
When the trapezius muscles are constantly in improper position, they cannot lengthen and shorten in their full range of motion and this will cause problems. The muscles may be overly elongated when you sit and walk with rounded shoulders all day, or overly shortened when you use one side more than the other, like holding your phone on one side or hitting many forehands, serves and volleys.
Moving your trapezius out of these incorrect positions regularly through the day will increase the blood flow and oxygen delivery to the muscle and learning a better posture will help to maintain the optimal length of the trapezius muscles. Strengthening and improving the endurance of the trapezius muscle will decrease the risk of walking around with the tight and sore neck.
If you already have the pain, try these simple and quick exercises to get some relief. Do 15 to 20 repetitions in a controlled manner.
1) Shoulder shrugs: lift your shoulders upward and toward your ears. Hold the top position for a half second, then lower them back down.
2) Scapular squeezes: roll the shoulders back and squeeze the shoulder blades together as hard as you can. Hold the position for 1 second and repeat.
3) Neck rotations: turn your head slowly to one side, look over the shoulder, and pause briefly. Then turn to the other side.
4) Neck side tilts: tilt your head to one shoulder, pause briefly, and slowly go to the other side. When you are done with your 20 repetitions, you may even gently stretch the neck muscles by gently pulling on your head toward the shoulder while moving the opposite shoulder down. The key here is GENTLY. Don’t be rough on your delicate neck.
5) Head circles: combine the tilts and rotations into a gentle and slow circular motion. If you feel a bit dizzy, play with either closing or opening your eyes, whatever works best for you. Do the circles gently and slowly, 10 times in one direction, then switch. Be aware and enjoy the feeling of all the muscles stretching.
6) To more permanently correct your shoulder position (move them more back), do the Arm Circles, Elbow Curls, and Cat-and-Dog exercises regularly, preferably daily.
To make the trapezius muscle feel great and relaxed, you can get a deep tissue massage, or give yourself a great session of myofascial release of the upper back, described in my past article. You will feel like a new person.
Final Note on The Athlete’s Simple Guide to a Plant-Based Lifestyle
For you, readers, who were waiting for my book “The Athlete’s Simple Guide to a Plant-Based Lifestyle” to come out as an audio version, I have great news. It is available now on audible.com, amazon.com, and iTunes. If you don’t have time to read as much as you wish, you can now listen to it. I listen to 90% of my books and love it! The Kindle version will be next.
Thank you for all the kind comments about my book and feel free to email/ask any questions you have on this healthy nutritional approach.
Do you think that it is too expensive to eat healthy organic vegetables and fruits? Read about this common misconception in this Echo-chick’s feature article of mine: http://eco-chick.com/2014/08/30872/eating-healthy-organic-vegan-isnt-expensive-heres/
Until the next time, keep squeezing your shoulder blades and enjoy the rest of this lovely summer.