Monday, May 9, 2011

stretching 1-0-1

Neck and shoulder pain is a common problem we see here at sanctum.
With our busy lives, our poor posture and the day to day stresses on our body, it’s really no wonder that we feel pain or tension in this area. 
Not accounting for neck injuries, degenerative  conditions or other mitigating factors, often it is the front of our body, our chest, that is causing the problem!
When our shoulders round forward, generally our neck sits forward as well, causing the load to strain the muscles of our shoulders. With our whole world being in ‘front’ of us, the muscles in our chest and upper arms grow stronger and tighter as we use our arms and pull on their opposing muscles in the back of the body. 
Stretching is a wonderfully simple way to ease some of the stress from our neck and shoulders. By releasing the tension in the  chest, the shoulders are allowed to sit further back, taking away the strain.
General rules for stretching are:
1.Hold the stretch for at least 30 seconds to allow for full muscle relaxation into the new ‘length’
2.Keep breathing!  So often we hold our breath when we are stretching, but the act of breathing steadily in and out actually assists in the stretch itself.
3.Take care not to stretch too strongly or you risk injury or ineffectiveness of the stretch - stretching is more about the time under tension for the muscle not how hard you stretch. If you are putting too much stress on the muscle, the receptors in the muscle and connective tissue won't allow the muscle to lengthen any further for fear of tearing or injury.
Below are two versions of the same stretch.  Try both to see which suits you better.

This is an easy stretch to do just about anywhere.
Grasping hold of a door frame, gently rotate your body away from your arm till you feel the pull of the stretch.
You can also adjust the angle of your arm from straight out,  to slightly higher at approx a 45 degree angle and slightly lower at approx a 15 degree angle.  These will work a range of muscles through both your chest and arms.
Try to repeat the stretches at least twice (though three times is better!).

This second stretch is a different version of above.
If you find that holding your arm outstretched is too much or that the stretches themselves feel too intense, then this is a slightly lower impact option.
It also works the muscles of the chest more directly than the above stretch as the arm muscles aren't necessarily affected.

None of us, for the most part, do enough stretching.  Generally, stretching is not the most exciting part of our day.  But if we can incorporate just a few stretches into our day, whenever you think of it, then the benefits can be very far reaching.

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