The most common cause of stiff neck and/or neck and shoulder pain is poor posture. Few others that contribute to this type of pain are: poor sleeping habits, cold drafts, stress etc.
You can treat stiff neck, upper back ache and even headaches and migraine by being well aware of your posture. The overload in muscle tension just to hold your head up in the way, can eventually lead to chronic headaches and migraine.
Trapezius, the latissimus dorsi and the pectoralis are the 3 main muscles of our shoulder. Their sole purpose is to move the arm.
While the pecs and the lats are the primarily movers of our arm, the rhomboids at the back are the ones that provide stability to the shoulder joint. As the pecs and lats work to rotate the arm inward the rhomboids in the upper back become weak. This can cause shoulder joint to go too far forward, out of its neutral alignment. This can be avoided by strengthening the upper back, using the rhomboids. You can do this following exercises for shoulder alignment to feel the rhomboid muscles putting your shoulders back into their correct place.
1. Shoulder Alignment Exercise
- Stand up with the arms hanging loosely by your sides
- Rotate the wrists outward as far as you can
- Release the rotation in the lower arm by turning your palms in towards your thighs from the elbow BUT…
- Keep the shoulders and upper arm in the same position as in position 2
2. Relax the Shoulders
Raised shoulders cause the curve in the back of the neck to be too deep. Firstly loosen the shoulders with the Arm-swings and Circles exercises showed below and then proceed to the neck exercises in the following section.
3. Arm Swings
- Stand in a stable lunge position with the left foot in front and the right foot behind with the front leg bent and both heels on the floor
- Breathe in and swing the right arm up as far as you can until you feel the limit in the shoulder joint
- Breathe out and swing the arm down and back as far as you can
Start by doing eight or more swings while increasing speed and momentum until you are sure that all the little crackly noises have gone from your shoulder joint.
After you finish in this position, reverse the position of the feet and repeat with the left arm.
4. Full Arm Circles
While standing in the same position as for the previous sequence, start making continuous backward circles with your arm. Again, breathe in as you go up and breathe out as you go down. Begin slowly and increase the speed of the movement until your arm wants to circle quite fast to throw off all the tension (until you feel a tingling sensation in your fingertips).
Again, reposition your feet and repeat on the other side.
5. Yes, No, and Maybe Exercises
These exercises allow the neck to move in the three planes of motion, round the sagittal, transverse, and frontal axes.
Before attempting to do these neck exercises, you should establish the severity of your pain by consulting your physician or chiropractor.
In this exercises the point is to move your head up and down. If the back of your neck is completely free of tension your chin should touch your breastbone when you look down.
On the upward movement keep the back of your neck as long as you can.
Slowly repeat upper and down motion for as long as the little noises inside your neck disappear.
Caution if you suffer from a posterior disc bulge avoid going too far down on this move as it could increase the damage.
On the “No” sequence, keep the head central above the spine (between your shoulders). However try to see as far back behind you as you can on each lateral rotation without lifting your nose. Slowly repeat rotations to the left and right until all the little noises inside your neck disappear.
On the “Maybe” sequence, drop your ear down towards the shoulder while keeping your nose facing the front.
Gently repeat each move eight or more times until all the little crunching noises in your disappear.
6. Head Rolls
Slowly roll the head around clockwise to see how much of your entire periphery you can see. When you’ve done about five rolls, repeat them counter clockwise. For optimal results, head rolls may be done in a warm bath under water where your head is virtually weightless.
6. How do You sleep?
Certain sleeping conditions can cause a stiff neck. Sleeping in a cold draft will cause your neck muscles to contract during sleep. Avoid pillows that move the neck out of its neutral alignment. Your pillow should be firm and no thicker than the space needed for your head to lie flat on its ear without curving up the other side of the neck.
No More Pain
In most cases of chronic pain, the pain is self-induced from poor movement habits. Furthermore by modifying your daily movement habits and patterns and being aware of the difference between “good movements” and damaging ones, you are on the road to healing yourself. Lastly just avoid making the damaging moves.
Ultimate Solution is getting a Gravity Inversion Table
The ultimate solution to chronic neck pain and stiffness is the Gravity Inversion Table. However the bottom line is if we have to reduce compression, over-curvature and tightness in the whole skeleton. This can most easily be achieved in a completely passive way with gentle anti-gravity traction.
Lastly the exercises and tips given above will help you develop a level of physical consciousness and awareness to treat and cure a stiff neck or shoulder to ease the pain forever.