We are fortunate to have the modern advances and the benefits of electronic devices, remote education and networking, cushioned seats and postural supportive office chairs. All these things have become increasingly more abundant in our daily lives, however, the detriment of longer commutes, hours working on a laptop and evenings slouched or reclining on the couch in the company of televisions, tablets, and smartphones can often contribute to an increased tendency for neck pain, “tightness,” and muscle dysfunction.
While all of us may occasionally benefit from a few stretches to combat the poor postural habits associated with our sedentary lifestyle, managing neck and shoulder pain solely with stretching doesn’t treat the source, rather than the cause of symptoms and provides only temporary relief. Therefore, I believe it is appropriate to reiterate the message given in my prior Athletico blog post on back strengthening.
In order to alleviate your agony, it is necessary to understand the cause of neck and shoulder tightness, or a majority of muscle tightness in general. Muscle tightness is often the symptom resulting from sustained positions and continuous muscle contraction. Our sedentary lifestyle requires neck muscles to function according to their role as endurance muscles, and therefore, postural stabilizers, acting as the “guywires” providing stability for holding you upright throughout the day. This task is not easy, and many of our necks are simply not up to the task resulting in the tightness we feel, a repercussion of these muscles “fighting” to keep our spines aligned. For that reason, the best treatment may not be neck stretching, but strengthening.
One of the initial factors I observe during a patient evaluation is posture. Forward head, rounded shoulders? Sound like the majority of the American population? The message this communicates to my brain as a physical therapist is scapular (shoulder blade) muscle weakness and poor deep cervical muscle strength. No wonder your neck is painful and tight!
Isometric Cervical Side Bending
This exercise may also be performed on a gym machine or lying on your stomach with one arm hanging off the edge of a bed or table.
Theraband Shoulder Extension
Stand holding the ends of a resistance band anchored overhead with arms at shoulder height and palms facing floor.
This exercise may also be performed on a lat machine or lying on your stomach with one arm hanging off the edge of a bed or table.
Levator Scapula Stretch
Doorway Chest Stretch
Posterior Capsule Stretch
General Posture Guidelines
If you have questions or concerns about your neck or shoulder pain, schedule a free assessment at your nearest Athletico clinic so our experts can take a look at your pain and provide recommendations for treatment.
Physical therapy is usually the thing you are told to do after medication, x-rays or surgery. The best way to fix your pain is to start where you normally finish – with physical therapy at Athletico. Schedule a free assessment in-clinic or virtually through a secure online video chat where our team can assess your pain and provide recommended treatment options.
The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.