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    Pain in the Neck

    By Cinder Ernst–

    In the last several columns, we have looked at upper body posture and how to improve yours. As always, the exercises and coaching we offer at Easy Fitness are simple, clear and easy to fit in. Check the archives for some great posture fixes and hacks. It’s important to be in your best posture possible, not only as you move through your life, but also as you work out.

    Today we will talk about how posture affects head position and neck pain. When you have a forward slump going on (shoulders rounded forward, creating a hump in your back) your head often follows suit. Try it now: round forward and notice that your head falls forward, too. That head position creates tension in your upper back and neck. So, if you correct your upper back and chest posture, but not your head position, then you are still left with a painful upper back, neck and shoulders.

    Neck pain is tricky, because there are so many muscles involved with holding your head up. It’s always important to make sure those muscles are warmed up before you proceed with any stretching or adjusting of the area. The best and safest way to loosen and warm up the area is to do shoulder rolls. Simply move your shoulders up, back and around a few times, then reverse. Try a few right now, because next you might want to try the posture adjustment.

    The positional adjustment for your head is first to lift your ribcage by bringing your shoulder blades back and down. Then think of your head as a natural extension of your spine. When you do this, you feel taller. I often think of my mom, who was a dancer. She had that graceful, long neck with her head held high. Try it now … shoulder blades back and down, with your head a natural extension of your spine.

    Your head may now be in better alignment, but what’s your chin doing? With a forward head position, your chin often juts forward. This chin position shortens the muscles in the back of your neck, creating more pain and tension. The opposing neck muscles in front become weak and unable to support your head properly. So, a chin adjustment is in order.

    Make sure you’ve done a few shoulder rolls before you proceed. In physical therapy, this adjustment is called a neck or chin glide. Without moving your chin up or down, try to move it straight back. Sometimes this movement is taught with two fingers pressing gently on your chin. Hold for a second or two, then relax. What you should feel is stretch in the back of your neck, and slight tension in the front of your neck. My clients have named this “ye old double chin move,” because if you do it right, you create a double chin look.

    Next time, we will look at neck mobility moves with some stretching and strengthening. Be sure to listen to your body. Stop if something hurts, and don’t forget to have fun!

    Cinder Ernst, Medical Exercise Specialist and Life Coach Extraordinaire, helps reluctant exercisers get moving with safe, effective and fun programs. Find out more at http://cinderernst.com