When your neck or back are hurting, the idea of exercising may feel more than counter-intuitive: it might sound like torture! But the truth is that the best thing you can do both to ease your pain and to prevent it in the future is stretching and strengthening the muscles that make up and support your neck and shoulders and your upper, mid, and lower back. We’ve provided a few ideas and suggest that you always start with a stretching exercise before moving on to strengthening. If you’re in significant pain it’s not the right time to start — give yourself a break — but if you’ve been finding yourself experiencing more aches than normal or you’ve been having pain intermittently or unexpectedly, try adding a few of these to your day and see if they help.
Stretching gives your muscles a chance to loosen up, which is particularly important for areas that cause pain. Much of your discomfort may be coming from areas where tightness has developed. By doing one or two of the following exercises a day you will improve your flexibility and your range of motion.
- Neck and Upper Back – While standing, tilt your neck to the right and hold for ten seconds, then roll your head slowly to your left shoulder and repeat on that side. Return to the right side and repeat five times.
- Shoulders and Upper Back – While standing, roll your shoulders backwards in a circular motion five times, then repeat five times going forward. Repeat exercise three times.
- Upper, Mid, and Lower Back – Sitting sideways in a chair with your right side against the chair’s back, rotate your body to the right, reaching for the back of the chair with your hands. Hold the position, using your arms to deepen the stretch. Return to original position and repeat twice, then switch so that your left side is against the back of the chair and repeat.
Once your muscles are loose, it’s time to strengthen them to prevent future pain and help provide the support that your neck, shoulders, and back need. We’ve chosen exercises that only use your body weight so that you don’t have to purchase any equipment.
- Neck and Upper Back – Standing with your back flat against a wall, extend your arms out to either side against the wall, then bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle. Move your arms up and down, touching your fingers to your head then returning to original position as if you are making a snow angel, keeping the flat against the wall the hold time. Repeat ten times.
- Shoulders and Upper Back – Standing tall with your arms by your sides, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a count of ten, then release. Repeat five times.
- Mid and Lower Back – Laying flat on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you, lift your arms and legs at the same time while keeping your neck neutral. Use your back and your glutes to lift. Hold for a count of five and return to original position. Repeat ten times.
These simple exercises should provide you with a good foundation of stretching and strengthening and eliminate some of your tightness and pain. For additional relief, contact our spine specialty practice in New Jersey today to set up a time to come in and see us.