Last week we discussed the causes of hip complex tightness and weakness and how we can reduce these aches and pains. Today we are going to talk about how we can fix tightness in our upper back and neck; why we might be prone to such problems and solutions that we can use.
The upper and mid back, otherwise known as the thoracic spine lead to the neck and are connected to the shoulder girdle which allows for movement at the shoulder including taking our arms overhead or to the side.
Having a tight thoracic spine and lack of shoulder mobility is what usually causes the start of neck pain due to anteriorly rounded shoulders and upper back which will in turn lead to what is called upper cross syndrome.
This is when our shoulders are slouched forwards leading to a forward head posture. People most prone to such issues are again those people who sit for a long period of time with a bad posture and those who do not do any exercise or movement related activity outside of those hours.
Problems in the upper back, shoulders and neck can also be caused due to tight chest and latissimus muscles (rounding of the shoulders), tight trapezius muscles (shrugging without noticing) and weak back muscles namely the rhomboids and middle and lower trapezius (responsible for scapular retraction).
Here are 4 methods that you should be using to avoid upper back, shoulder and neck problems.
1. Self myofascial release
Use a foam roller or a stiff ball such as tennis, baseball, lacrosse etc. to roll out the tight muscles which in this case are your chest muscles, your lattisimus dorsi and trapezius. Find a tight spot and hold the foam roller or ball for around 30s and then move on.
Stretch the same tight muscles mentioned above. You can also use the dead hang in which you just hang from a high bar, which is a great overall stretch for the shoulder complex.
Use mobility exercises that work on the joints and spine rather than the muscles themselves such as shoulder internal and external rotations against the wall and wall slides keeping your back flat on the wall, shoulder dislocations with a dowel, band or stick, thread the needle where you’re standing on all fours and prone snow angels.
Strengthen the weak muscles which are the rhomboids and middle and lower trapezius. Exercises that you can use include prone Is, Ys and Ts, row variations which can be done with a dumbbell, barbell or cable as well as bilateral or unilateral, face pulls, horizontal abductions and back flys. Apart from that training overhead pressing movements will also help.
Try to do a combination of the above exercise methods 2 to 3 times a week while also trying to sit with your back straight and shoulder blades pinched back. Moreover, do try and move your arms above your head and to the side a few times a days when you are sitting down.
If you'd like to learn more about this topic or have questions on how to achieve your fitness goals, feel free to get in touch.