neck and shoulder pain? your posture may be to blame

Have you ever experienced a nagging pain in your shoulder blade area that just won't go away? How about chronic neck tension while sitting at your desk? Maybe you get a massage but a few hours later, the pain returns. 

Upper back and neck tension are complaints that are becoming more prevalent in my chiropractic office and in the yoga studio.

Pain in the upper back and neck is often a sign that you have a postural imbalance and certain muscles are tired of doing a job they weren't meant to do. But there is a solution! We just need to fix the problem, not the symptoms.

What causes the pain?

First, it’s important to look at the muscular imbalances that slouching posture creates. When the upper back and shoulders are hunched forward, the shoulder blades start to pull away from the spine. This over-stretches and weakens the muscles that connect the spine and the shoulder blades (rhomboids, lower and middle traps). These muscles spasm from being fatigued and pulled, causing pain between the shoulder blades and into the neck. 

In contrast, the muscles that round your shoulders and internally rotate your upper arms shorten and get overworked. These muscles include: subscapularis, teres major, anterior deltoids, pecs major and minor, levator scapulae, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, and upper trapezius. Wow that's a lot! 

So in a nutshell, your chest muscles get tight, and you back muscles get weak but taught, causing pain in the back and neck.

 

In addition to overall pain and discomfort, chronic slumping can cause rotator cuff issues and neck problems. (fun but scary fact: when you look down to post a photo to instagram or send a text or an email, you put about 60 pounds of pressure on the upper cervical spine. That's like carrying a small child on your neck!)

How can you fix it?

The most common mistake I see is people trying to stretch out their upper back. Don't! Trying to stretch the upper back is unlikely to ease the pain and can actually make things worse since these muscles are already in a lengthened state. Instead, focus on stretching the muscles of the chest and strengthen the muscles of the mid back.

The good news is these imbalances are correctable and you can feel better with some retraining and proper care. If there's one pose I would give you that you can do just about anywhere to start correcting your posture it would be this one... 

 

press elbows and forearms into the wall and walk feet back until they're under hips. Start with elbows shoulder height and work your way up until you feel a stretch along the sides and under the armpits. Reach back through the tailbone and breathe deeply. Hold for 8-10 breaths. 

press elbows and forearms into the wall and walk feet back until they're under hips. Start with elbows shoulder height and work your way up until you feel a stretch along the sides and under the armpits. Reach back through the tailbone and breathe deeply. Hold for 8-10 breaths. 

 

Certain yoga postures and strengthening exercises along with appropriate body work (chiropractic, massage, etc) can alleviate these postural issues and prevent future injury. Learn more by scheduling an appointment with me or join in my workshop at Mind the Mat this Saturday, 2/4 (sign up here: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/ASP/main_enroll.asp?studioid=5362&tg=&vt=&lvl=&stype=-8&view=day&trn=100000248&page=&catid=&prodid=&date=2%2f1%2f2017&classid=0&prodGroupId=&sSU=&optForwardingLink=&qParam=&justloggedin=&nLgIn=&pMode=0