Ease neck, shoulder, and upper back tension

Hours spent at the microscope can be a literal pain in the neck for many laboratory professionals.  Pipetting can also put strain on shoulders and upper backs.  Much of corporate America sits at computers for long stretches of time.  Many workplaces are implementing ergonomic work stations to help ease some of the pain many of us encounter on the job.  While this is definitely a positive move, there are many things that we, as self health advocates, can do for ourselves.

Posture

How do we sit at work?  Are we slouching in our chairs?  Just getting into the habit of sitting up straight is a great starting point.  As you slouch, your shoulders hang forward, and your neck and upper back try to compensate.  Muscles which are not meant to maintain posture, such as smaller neck muscles end up doing jobs which they are not meant to.  They get tired; we end up with neck and upper back pain.

Stretch and strengthen

We need to stretch out the tight muscles and we need to strengthen the weak muscles.  Stretch out the chest muscles; strengthen the upper back muscles.

Yoga is great for accomplishing both of these tasks in a way which is both gentle and easy on the body.  And with yoga’s calming effect some stress may be alleviated too.  Stress is another contributor to muscle tension.

Deep breathing will help relieve neck tension.  Sit comfortably with your hands on your belly and inhale.  Feel your belly inflate; exhale and feel it fall.  Do this for 10 breaths.  Be aware of your neck muscles as well as your posture.  Sit up straight.  You can do this at your desk or at home.

“The Clock” is a pectoral or chest muscle stretch.  Stand next to a wall with your hand up on the wall above your head in a 12 o’ clock position.  Slowly move your hand to 1, 2 and 3 o’clock.  Try to keep your ribcage facing straight forward. You should feel a stretch in front of the right shoulder.  Hold for 6 breaths and then repeat with the left arm.

Arms overhead with strap can be done with a yoga strap or a belt.  Holding the strap in both hands shoulder width apart raise your arms overhead.  Your palms should face away from each other.  If you can’t straighten your arms, just move them farther apart until you can.  Now drop your chin to your chest to release your neck muscles and gently pull your arms apart from each other.  Hold for 6 breaths and repeat twice more.

Downward dog at the wall is a variation of downward dog.  Press your hands against a wall and walk your feet back until you create a table top position.  Lift your sitting bones towards the sky as you press in to the wall with your hands.  Keep your knees slightly bent.  You should feel like your heart is melting towards the ground.  Hold for 6 breaths as you focus on opening the chest and lengthening your spine.  If done correctly this pose will feel incredible!

There you have it.  A couple of poses to help ease your neck pain through the stretching and strengthen of key muscle groups.

To your health.

P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, questions, or comments.  Send me a reply below.

Disclaimer:  All articles written on Microyogi are opinions and not meant to serve as any kind of instruction for how to move your body.  I am merely writing to serve as a means of trying to find my own answers.  I am not a certified trainer or medical expert.

My Yoga Journey

My introduction to yoga happened about 4 years ago.  I am a laboratory professional and I used to suffer from very painful stiff muscles in my neck, upper back, and shoulders.  I was also stressed from the demands of a busy clinical laboratory.   I had also recently relocated from Bermuda to Southern California and was lonely and going through culture shock.  A lot to deal with.

I was constantly going for massages which was nice and offered a quiet sanctuary away from it all.  The knots behind my shoulder blades would not budge though.  A massage therapist kept insisting that I just try some yoga.  I blew off the idea several times.

Finally, I bought a few yoga DVDs and tried some of the exercises.  It worked; and it works still.  I maybe hit the mat 2 times a week.  Sometimes I don’t get to it for a week or two.  Ideally I would and want to say I do it on a daily basis.

The 2 DVDs that I really loved as a beginner were by Barbara Benagh:

  1. yoga for stress relief
  2. yoga for beginners

This is gentle hatha yoga.  If you experience chronic neck, shoulder, and back ache from sitting at work perhaps try these DVDs.  I bought mine on Amazon.  Or search YouTube for simple exercises.  Search things like “yoga for neck ache”.  There are tons of videos and those are free if you are not sure and want to just try it.

To your health.