Let's talk about your shoulder knots.
This is the main issue my clients come seeking help with. Whether you sit at a desk all day or do some type of manual labor chances are you feel pain and/or tension here. The cause is often from some combination of overuse of certain muscles while others remain underused, sleepy and dormant. In the vast majority of clients I see there is an over tightening in the muscles of the chest and anterior (front) neck, combined with an under utilization of the muscles of the upper back. This causes the rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles to bear a load of weight while elongated which causes them to get really stiff and sore.
While each situation has it's unique variables my main treatment goals end up being to release the muscles in the chest and anterior neck, flush out tension in the upper back, posterior neck and shoulders, and wake up the back muscles to prevent this pattern from reoccurring.
Below is an easy self care routine that, when used in between bodywork sessions, can be helpful for correcting this pattern over time. For simplicity's sake, this series of recommendations will focus on relaxing and releasing. Keep in mind that strengthening is just as important in pain prevention, but we will save that discussion for a future blog post.
Please understand these are general recommendations. Listen to your body and if any of theses movements cause pain or discomfort don't do them. I am happy to go over more specific instructions and recommendations during a session.
Before doing any stretching/strengthening I recommend taking a moment to check in with yourself. Feel your breath move in and out of your lungs. Feel your feet on the ground or your body in the chair and allow yourself to be open to experiencing the newness of each movement and making new discoveries about this remarkable container you live in.
1) Let's start by opening the chest and front of the shoulders. Standing near a wall extend your arm to your side with your palm facing forward. Keep your palm nice and open as your plant it into the wall and turn your chest/torso in the opposite direction. You should feel this stretch through the chest and down the arm and hand. Hold and breath here for as long as it feels good, but at least 45 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
4) From a standing position bend your knees slightly as bend at the waist, keeping your spine elongated and your neck and head in line with your spine. Bring your arms back in line with your torso, palms wide open and facing the floor. Press and squeeze through your upper back muscles down through your triceps, forearms and hands. Focus your attention to the area between your shoulder blades. It can be helpful to have someone place a hand in this area while you are doing this exercise to really help you tune in and feel the rhomboids doing their job. Hold here for 45 seconds, release, then repeat twice more. Remember to keep your breath moving while holding this position.
Karen Townsend is a massage therapist certified through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She is trained in Thai Yoga Massage, Shiatsu and Western therapeutic massage techniques. Karen is no longer working at Wellness Minneapolis. Visit her website to schedule an appointment.