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neck pain

Mobility, neck pain, Shoulder pain

Myofascial Release: Tight neck and shoulder self-treatment!

November 14, 2013 • By

Everyone gets tight neck and shoulders, whether you are an athlete, office worker or new-mum and this easy myofascial release will give you huge relief!

Not only will this exercise ease neck and shoulder tension but also improve shoulder range, ease headaches, make you more upright and just make you feel great!

See the Video demo here or see below for an easy description.

upper traps, self trigger point knots, tension headaches treatmentThe upper trapezius (traps) knot up very regularly and cause you to feel tight, hunched over and can often cause stress and tension headaches. All you need as a firm self-massage/trigger point ball (Lacrosse ball is great if you’re in the USA!) and do the following exercise for a great myofascial release:

 

 

 

 

 

TP UT1Lie on your back with your knees bent up and place the ball under your upper traps as shown.  You will be able to feel the knots and tight muscles through this area (they will feel harder, often tender and like a marble or golf ball).

 

 

 

 

 

Self trigger point of upper traps and stress pointsNext bring your arm up and back towards the ground and then oscillate it up and down (grind it!).

Tip: If you do not feel it much, lift your bottom off the ground and put all your weight through the ball.

This is a fantastic technique and once you have tried you will see what I mean! For the is best results and long-lasting relief, do this every evening or as a break at work.

This myofascial release is great to combine with a couple of other things that will combine to create a long-term fix! It is important to look at the muscles (which we are doing here) AND the joints, so try out this easy spinal self-mobilization or this back stretch your mobility.

Let me know how you get on!

Please share and like and if you want more self-treatment exercises, check out our great Ebook

 


neck pain, Shoulder pain, Upper limb

Scapula stabilising exercises – Beat shoulder pain for good.

August 26, 2013 • By

winging scapula shoulder bladeWhy does your shoulder pain not get better or keep coming back??  Scapula stability and control is often overlooked yet it is absolutely necessary for good shoulder function. Here we will increase shoulder girdle strength, stability and control to get rid of and minimise the chances of:

  • Rotator cuff impingement
  • Shoulder tendinopathy
  • Subacromial Bursitis
  • Neck pain and Headaches
  • And much more

Scapula Dyskinesia is a very very common response to shoulder pain and leads to ongoing, prolonged and frustrating shoulder pain. This is basically abnormal movement of your shoulder-blade. For more detail: Skapula dyskineia

Normal shoulder movement, strength, control and performance is fully dependent on the scapula – and not just movement but it’s stability as well. The scapula is the base that your arm works off and if you don’t have a stable base, you will be much more likely to have shoulder and neck pain – It would be like trying to walk in an earthquake!

Normally when you lift your arm, your shoulder blade rotates upwards as seen in the picture below. If your shoulder-blade doesn’t rotate – your shoulder gets jammed against it, leading to pain and tightness.

So given that Scapula Dyskinesia occurs in 68-100% of shoulder injuries, this is something that needs to be addressed in EVERY PERSON WITH SHOULDER PAIN. So below is your exercise regime to address this yourself at home or the gym.

1. Push-up Plus: skapual, serratus anterior strengthening exercises, physiotherapy, shoulder pain

keeping your body and arms straight, push your shoulders forward(body upwards and then control your shoulders back to the starting position).

Too easy? do a push up and add the press at the top of each push-up (this is the plus!)

2×12 reps (to start with!)and start on your knees if you need to.

 

2. Shoulder external rotation: shoulder ER

Remember to always keep your elbow into your side and at 90degress.

You can also do theses in side lying with a 1-2kg dumbell in your upper hand.

2 x 12reps, increase the stretch to progress.

 

 

3. Chariot Pull: chdariot pull

Keeping your arms straight and shoulder back and down, take your arms back untill they are level with your body.

2 x 12reps, increase the stretch to progress.

 

 

 

 

4. Thoracic Mobility: I have included this as if you have a stiff spine, your shoulder chariot pull, shoulder strengtheningblades are always going to be in a bad position, so it is important to address this so that you don’t get stuck at 95%!

Using either a full or preferably 1.2 foam roller (high density!) lie on it, placed below your shoulder blades as shown, bridge up and extend your arms overhead and then elbows down to your sides.

Tip: Keep your head up and chin tucked in.

spend 1-2minutes working on your spine.

Do these exercises two times daily (Ideally!) for 6 weeks for awesome shoulder stability and a pain-free shoulder.

http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/47/14/877.long

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12670140

Also see:

Mobilise yourself

Beating neck pain and headaches

Please share and let me know how you get on.

 


Mobility, neck pain, training

Thoracic Mobility: Forget back, neck and shoulder pain

June 24, 2013 • By

Mobile Monday: Thoracic mobility

The key to many neck and shoulder injuries, your thorax needs to be mobile and in control, otherwise everything working off it… eventually feels the hurt.

Thoracic mobility is one of the most overlooked aspects of injury prevention and although this part of your spine doesn’t have as much movement as above and below it, it is very important none the less and here are a quick few reasons:

1. A stiff or weak upper spine means other areas have to compensate and move MORE, leading to shoulder, neck and low back injuries and pain.

2. Because your ribs attach to the thoracic spine, if the spine is stiff, locked up or just not moving correctly then the ribs are not going to move optimally when you breathe – leading to a lower breathing capacity and less basal lung expansion (the most important area of the lung).

3. If you work at a desk or live on the couch, your thoracic spine ends up hunched over, your pecs get tight and you just feel stuck – this makes your shoulders sit forward,  increasing the risk of sub-acromial pain and makes your head stick forward = causing headaches and neck pain.

 

So, to get you to 100% here is an exercise to improve thoracic mobility and improve every aspect of your movement – and it just takes 5 minutes!

Thoracic extensions: Mobilising into extension is my a definite go to exercise for all shoulder and spinal/back pain as this unloads all those areas. Extension in the thoracic spine is coupled with rotation, so if you gain extension, you also gain rotation!

Tools needed: There are specific tools that you can use such as foam rollers and 1/2 foam rolls (my favorite), but if this is too much for the budget then you can roll up a towel very, very firmly and tape it up.

chariot pull, shoulder strengtheningPosition: Lying on your back place the roll under your upper back, starting above the curve of your low back. With your knees bent up and feet planted on the ground bring your arms all the ways up above your head so that you stretch your upper body right out and then bring then down to your side (like a big snow angel).

Bridging your bottom off the ground can add to the stretch!

Reps and sets: You will need to move the roll up your back to get the different levels. Spend 30 seconds on each level, extending your arms above your head towards the ground and then down to your side repeated.

 

Do this exercise daily and you will see a great improvement in not only thoracic mobility but in all aspects of your life including, from overhead gym work and your golf swing to looking over your shoulder when driving.


Health, neck pain, physical therapy, physiotherapy

5 great exercises for neck pain.

June 13, 2013 • By

In this post I want to give you the tools to lay the foundations of a functional and stable, pain free neck. As with all spinal rehabilitation and retraining, there are important aspects that have to be addressed in order to achieve the end result of decreased neck pain and increased movement.

Make sure to check out my post on beating headaches arising from a tight and sore neck.

The first is kinesthetic training. This, in a nutshell, is gaining a better awareness of safe spinal movement and the neutral spine position. This is an important initial building block for the neck because, as mentioned earlier, when in pain we tend to lose proper feeling in the neck and in turn lose control of the stabilising muscles. This leads to unknowingly holding your head in a bad position (and so more neck pain!).

So first we need to discuss the neutral spinal position for the head and neck.

 

As you can see in the picture above, the image on the left is in neutral spinal position, still maintaining gentle curves. Now the image on the right has a typical poor posture of the upper back and neck, with their head jutting forward and their back rounded out. Just remember a good spinal position is not having your spine as straight as a pole or forcing yourself bolt upright!

1.1. Double chin

The first technique we will do is head retractions (I find calling it Double chins makes it far easier to remember). A great way to visualize this exercise is thinking about giving yourself an extra chin, as it has this effect when performed. To do this it is important to keep looking forward while bringing your head backward, making sure not to tilt your head down (it may help to put a finger on your chin to guide your head back).

Hold this position for 5 seconds 5 times. This can be done little and often throughout the day

Now this is an extreme of the position and we do not need to have a head this far back all the time! Rest assured.

 

1.2 Keeping moving

The second easy exercise to start doing is turning nods. This exercise is to start functionally working the core muscles of your neck and help them start feeling normal again. This is a fantastic exercise for neck pain and while at times it may feel like it isn’t doing much, believe me it works wonders on sore necks and headaches, allowing improved neck function and more feeling into the neck.

The added bonus is that it makes you keep the neck moving because as I’m sure you know when in pain we tend to stiffen up and this is not what we want at all.

Turning nods: This involves turning your head to each side and performing 3 nods on each side. These nods need to be small so that you are just moving your head on your neck. An important thing to remember with these exercises is do not push into pain! Also for some people this can feel like an awkward movement to do  or you may struggle to do the small nods – persevere and they will get better, this just shows that the muscles really are weak and lack control. This awesome exercise takes no time at all and can be done little and often throughout the day.

The second aspect is muscle re-training, you can move on to this as early as you like, progressing on as it gets easier.

The specific muscles that we want to retrain are the Deep Neck Flexors.

2. Chin tuck

The best and most used exercise is the chin tuck, which provides the basis for neck stabilization  This exercise can be done in numerous positions, including lying on your back, tummy, in four point kneeling and standing. BUT there are progressions to this exercise and you want to make sure you have each stage down before you move on.

Initial position for learning the chin tuck: lying on your back, knees bent with a towel rolled up under your head as shown so that the thickest part is under the base of your head.

Action: Tuck your chin in causing a fattening of the neck and a downward pressure to be applied to the rolled towel at the base of your neck.

How much? Begin with 10×3 second holds and progress to 10×10 seconds – 2 sets of these twice daily.

 Image

Tips

    1. place your tongue on the top of your mouth and keep your teeth apart. This will help relax the jaw and only utilise the muscles we want, deep in your neck.
    2. Do not force this exercise, it needs to be gentle
    3. Quality over quantity – keep it nice and slow and control it!

 Chin Tuck progression:

Once you have mastered the chin tuck in lying and you can do it easily in a smooth motion without tensing your jaw, then you are ready to move on and do this exercise in the other positions. I recommend progressing to four point kneeling first as this will give you great feedback having to work against gravity. You can also do the exercise in front lying and standing.

The third aspect is unloading the neck by stretching tight muscles:

3. Arm pit stretch: This is a great stretch to unload your neck and shoulder. I call it this as you are pulling your head towards your armpit!

Hold this for at 1 minute and perform 3 times daily. To get a better stretch it may help to hold on to a bench or table with the opposite hand to stop the shoulder rising up.

neck stretch for levator scapulae

4. Ear to shoulder: Keep your head looking forward and this time pull your head towards your shoulder and hold for 1 minute also 3x daily.

 neck stretch for upper trap

Exercise re-cap:

– Double chins

– Turning nods

– Chin tucks

– Arm-pit stretch

– Ear to shoulder stretch

These exercises absolutely don’t take long and can be done LITTLE AND OFTEN throughout the day.

Be sure to keep and eye out for an upcoming post on postural correction for some great self mobilization and correction techniques you can do at home and also my recent post on Self Trigger Pointing.


Health, neck pain

Headaches and Neck Pain – Self trigger pointing to abolish Knots

May 30, 2013 • By

In this post I will tell you how to get relief and get rid of headaches and annoying knot sin your neck yourself! A fantastic tool that everyone needs to know – Don’t rely on drugs, medication and heat packs – treat yourself!

First of all, I would like to say that I really believe that there is such a thing as good pain! Some of my patients may disagree with this at the time of treatment of course but if not immediately, then the day after, you will feel markedly better. A lot of this “Good pain”  is felt during trigger point release and deep massage, when the tissue is released, it feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulder at times and relieves a lot of pain – namely Headaches and niggly Neck Pain!

Another way to look at this is a little bit of pain for a whole lot of gain!

I am going to run through a couple of techniques that you can utilise YOURSELF along with strengthening exercises to beat headaches and neck pain. These can be performed yourself or you can get someone else to do them for you:

Self-massage:

Starting position – I find that prone lying (on your back) is best as this way it is easier to relax and you aren’t using all the muscles to hold you up. You can also give it a go in sitting or another position you find comfortable.

Motion – using the hand on the same side as you want to massage, bring you hand back and place your three middle fingers on the back of your neck right below your skull. This gives you a good idea of the area you need to be massaging. Now simply using these fingers or just the index and middle gently begin massaging into the muscle using circulatory motions and remembering to keep good contact on the skin. The idea with this is to find the muscle that feels harder, tighter or knotty and work into this to warm it up, stretch it out and increase blood flow.

 If someone else is performing the massage on youlielye on your back with your head supported on a pillow, have this awesome person sit behind your head and place their hands under the upper portion of your neck on each side.

 Trigger point release: I have listed this technique second as it is best to do after light massage when the muscle is warmed up.

In the same position as described above, use your index and middle finger to find the trigger points in your sub-occipital muscles. You will find these at the back of your neck in the at the base of your skull. A trigger point as described in Beating Headaches is basically a point in a tight muscle which is especially hard and sore to touch and often refers pain up into your head.

 When one of these points is found you need to apply pressure to the point with your index finger supported by your middle finger. Apply pressure so that there is mild pain (it needs to be bearable – if you are too aggressive the muscle will bunch up more). Maintain this pressure until the pain begins to subside and at this point you need to more pressure, without taking your fingers off. This increase in pressure should be performed 2-3 times and then the pressure can be taken off. It can take ten seconds to over a minute for the pain to start easing and the muscle to relax so you need to hang in there!

Tip – give the muscle a gentle rub after this to make it feel more normal.

Next – move on to another trigger point if there are any more on the same or other side.

 Image

Note: Trigger point release can at times cause aching and an increase in pain/ headaches but improvements will show the day after.

For further information see: Beating Headaches