Exercise for Neck/Shoulder Pain
For a few years now I have had constant aching and stiffness in my shoulders and neck. I have tried about 1 million different sleeping positions (even purchased a new bed to see if it would alleviate the problem) and gone through several styles of pillows with no noticeable improvement. I had the issue evaluated by a doctor who determined that there was no underlying medical problem causing this pain and referred me to a chiropractor. I had several visits with the chiropractor some time back and really felt quite a bit of improvement, however, even with the insurance coverage it was just too expensive to continue treatment. I am sedentary for most of the day due to my office job and know that sitting all day is not helping my cause despite a conscious effort to have good posture throughout the day and getting up to stretch about every 45 minutes or so. The chiropractor had given me a few stretching exercises and I also do yoga several times a week both of which seem to help quite a bit but was looking to see if anyone had suggestions for specific exercises or exercise programs that you have found to help release the tension in your shoulders and neck. I find it difficult to perform exercises like the “Hundred” where the neck is to be held off the ground and generally try to stay away from those particular poses and replace them with something more appropriate for my condition. If anyone has suggestions for beneficial exercises/poses to replace the ones that are too difficult for me.
I have constant neck and shoulder pain too. The docs have decided that I have a thickened something or other in my shoulder and a narrowed space in one of the vertebrae in my neck, both of which cause radiating nerve pain. Anyway I went to PT for about 6 months a couple of years ago, I still do the exercises, swear by them in fact. They seem to help, at least I'm living with a lot less pain than I used to. Most of them are with hand weights, I started with 2lbs, but have moved up to 10 for almost all of them, and 15 for a select few. Basically I take the hand weights and lift them in just about anyway I can think of, sets of 10, 1-3 sets each (depending on time).
The most effective exercise is where I lay on my back, start with weights at my sides, from there I lift up, until my arms are perpendicular to the floor, and then lower them over my head until the weights touch the floor and back, slowly.
Another good one is "push-up plus", start in push-up position, but instead of dropping down you arch your shoulders up, it's almost like a reverse push-up. The movement is very minimal, but in part a stretch, so it feels good when done right.
I also have a body ball and do hand walking, where my stomach is on the ball and I uses my hands to walk forward until my feet are on the ball, then I move side to side and finish with a set of side planks. That one is great for the core, your shoulders will ache, but your core will be on FIRE.
I also do push-ups and planks (straight arm, bent arm) and side planks with weights (straight and bent). I try and hold the planks and side planks for 30-60 seconds each. Sit-ups and crunches are also great, specifically inverted crunches, the bench at the gym will only invert to 45 degrees, but that's all I can handle anyway. I try and get to 150 total, between sit-ups, crunches and obliques, everything in sets of 25 just to make keeping track easier.
I'm glad you do yoga, that is great for me too. I hand walk out to downward dog, to cobra, back to downward dog, hand walk back and stand, until I can't do anymore. That one gets some weird looks at the gym, but it's great for flexibility and my neck and shoulder.
Other than that it's not uncommon for me to stop whatever I'm doing and stretch, I also take Flexamin at night when the pain is bad. My body does a lot better if it gets fully relaxed overnight and I get a good bit of rest.
Another thing is that my issues were probably caused by an RMI (repeat motion injury), so I try and limit the time I spend at the computer.
Yikes, makes me nervous that with neck and shoulder pain a MRI wasn't ordered. Having 3 neck surgeries under my belt so far I know for a fact that neck and shoulder pain come from compression or bulges and that needs to be addressed first. Once the doctor see's what is going on you can plan a much safer workout. If you have any arm pain such as in your triceps and forearms do not lift weights until you get a MRI. OK that said, I used to be a weight lifting guru. I ran daily and lifted at least 4 times a week. Life changed when I had several work related injuries that left me with a jacked up neck. And nerve damage. That said with the help of medicines I may not run but can and do lift weights as much as I can (Have fibro now too so sometimes i am just to sore and beat). I did the Tony Horton P90 without pain. So I would suggest his videos. I think P90X might be to much for me but the master series I also can do. Since I do not have a gym close I have dumbbells and use them and a variety of videos. Just do not lift heavy above your head, like with presses. If your shoulders hurt try light weights or bands to do your side and front raises. Keep your knees bent and just go lighter on bicep curls. Push ups did not hurt my neck as long as I keep my neck in proper position. Use the floor or a bench more then the ball in my opinion because the ball forces you to keep your neck unsupported and it causes me pain. Bands hurt less then weights but I cannot give up my weights. My Neuro surgeon told me not to do the elliptical because of the motion (which I found as true) and movement of your arms. Since I do not run now I do walk and try to walk uphill on the treadmill, do yoga (OMG great for painful days and keeping your body strong) videos, and other various videos. I just do not do the jumps and lifts I just modify.
Just my thoughts. Please do not go to the Chiropractor without knowledge of where the pain is coming from. More harm then good can come from twisting and cracking of the neck. Do not trust your family doctor with your neck pain. Research and go to a Orthopedic doc or a DO to be cleared for working out. Take it from me I did it all wrong the first time around and ended up in so much pain I wanted to cut my arm off. Remember pain does not mean you cannot be fit.
Thank you for your input!
I have started to include some of the specific exercises mentioned into my work outs and work day. I picked up a set of 3 lb weights for my office and take several breaks to do the arm and push-up type exercises you all have recommended. I am relatively pain/ache free throughout the day as long as I keep the muscles stretched out. I have also found that doing yoga for 10 minutes before I get out to walk (I walk my dog for at least an hour a day) really helps as my muscles are then nice and warmed up. I used to go out cold turkey and could really feel it if the dog were to pull a bit. Now my body is better able to move with any leash tension and I do not get sore shoulders (the dog does not pull badly, but my shoulders get sore easily). I am hopeful that by keeping to this routine I will be able to relieve most of the issue in the long run as I am quite young still.
The odd thing about pain is that it stops you from exercising, but exercise is often the best medicine for it. Glad to hear that it's working for you.
Posture is a HUGE factor in neck / upper back pain. Make sure to sit up straight but comfortably throughout the day. Make sure your screen is at about eye level and preferably straight in front of you. An EXCELLENT exercise for the neck is chin tucks where you pretend to make a double chin and you should feel a stretch in your upper neck just below the base of your skull. This should be done 20x each hour. This is easy to make a habit by doing 20 with each bathroom break, 20 at each meal, etc. Use a lumbar support if possible & experiment with where it feels best. You can roll up a towel and put it at your lower back to safe money. While sitting up with good posture, hold your arms in a "W" shape with elbows bent and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Stay out of a range that makes pain worse and this should help you a lot.
It is very much preferred to avoid crunches or motions that involve a slouched position of the back as this is the most likely cause of your upper back and neck pain in the first place. There are plenty of ways to work abs without crunches. Good luck.
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