As you may imagine, the neck and shoulder area is an intricate system of muscles that not only works to move the head, but also aids in the movement of the arms and areas of the torso. Almost everyone has excess tension in these muscles not only from athletics, but primarily from environmental issues – we spend much of our lives sitting at our desks, in cars or in chairs that are not well designed to support our bodies. It is here that these muscles can compensate and create tension and a potential for pain and limited movement.
The neck and upper shoulders are made up of a few muscle groups. The trapezius muscles are shoulder muscles at the rear and upper base of the neck. They help to elevate the shoulders and give forward and side movement to the head and neck.
The scalenes are three muscles which run up the neck along the spine. They assist in neck movement, as well as rib elevation for proper breathing.
The scapula are the muscles along the side of the neck that aid in neck and shoulder movement and the turning of the head.
An imbalance in any of these muscles can result in limited movement, pain and headaches.
To stretch the trapezius muscles, lie on your back. Keep your neck lengthened and turn your head to the right as much as is comfortable. Tuck in your chin and pull your left shoulder toward your feet. Put your left arm under your body to hold down the left shoulder and wrap your right arm around your head so that your right fingers are holding the base of your skull. Try to bring the left shoulder and back of the neck toward each other. Repeat with the opposite side.
For the scalene muscles, lie on your back and pull your left shoulder away from your each. Hold it in place by placing your left arm under your body. Keep your face pointing toward the ceiling and laterally flex your neck to bring your right ear close to your right shoulder comfortably. With your right arm up around your head, use your fingers to hold just above your left ear and bring it toward your left shoulder.
To stretch the scapula, sit in a chair with your spine extended. Drop your head toward your chest and turn your chin to the right at a 45 degree angle. Use your right had to hold the top of your head and pull until you feel a stretch on the left side of your neck.
When stretching the neck muscles, make sure you never feel pain. Also, if you have had an injury, it is imperative to seek the help of a professional.
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