Exercises that Help Relieve Neck and Shoulder Pain

All of the muscle groups that cause me the most grief are in my hands, arms, neck, and head. It is amazing to me that too much typing or texting can lead to rotator cuff soreness and pain. Lifting heavy towels or large loads of laundry atop regularly throwing Frisbees and balls to my puppy can wear out my shoulders, easily building toward a headache if I am not careful.

Headaches are at the top of my list of the most debilitating and the potentially most averted of all pains I experience. The headaches I experience from pulled shoulder muscles usually last two days. Over the years, I have asked health professionals and researched all that I can for ways to alleviate the pain and stop it from happening.

I have traced much of the source to bending down and picking up heavy items (lifting items above my head is no longer possible), typing and texting for extended periods of time, and movements that overextend these muscles (for example, throwing a ball). I have narrowed it down to three exercises that are easy to remember, can be done almost anywhere and have been most effective for me.

They include:

  1. Stand against a wall with your arms extended. Move your arms up and down, as if you were making a snow angel. Move slowly to feel the tension. Keep your head up and your back against the wall the entire time. Do a set of 10.
  2. Sit upright with your arms at the side. Shrug your shoulders and release them in drastic fashion while dropping the shoulders down. I find that my muscles sometimes tremble after releasing the muscles. It is only momentary and feels better when finished.
  3. This exercise can be done sitting in bed as well as in a chair. Sitting upright, slowly bring your head down to your chest, then slowly bring your head up and gently put the head back. Try doing this in one fluid motion. As you do, slowly open your mouth so that it is fully open when your head is back. This helps loosen the levator scapulae muscles and is supposed to help with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

It is not always easy to remember to take the time to do these exercises when my muscles are tight and aggravated. Fortunately, as the tightness builds in my body, I get mild dizziness when lifting my head up fast from bed. Sometimes, I may experience a mild zapping sensation. If you have ever missed a dose of an antidepressant, you know the sensation I am referring to.

Leaning forward too often when sitting at my computer, leaning down a lot when doing tasks such as vacuuming, and bending my neck when sleeping, are my regular culprits.

When it starts getting tight, I reduce certain activities (such as typing and texting) and do the above-listed exercises to stretch and loosen the muscles. Should I begin to develop pain in the back of my head (occipital muscles), I take Aleve. I find that once it gets to this point, too much exercise only aggravates the now-inflamed muscles.

If I have overdone movements and ignored the warning signs, I have to stop all unnecessary activities for a full day. Regular doses of Aleve, as well as applying an ice pack to the throbbing areas, are required to get the heightened pain to settle. As the inflammation reduces, I am able to gradually find the source of the pain, as it is the last to be the most tender to the touch. At worst, it can take up to a week before all hand, arm, shoulder, and neck muscles settle.



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