Getting Rid of Neck and Shoulder Pain

By Lina Yanchulova

"If your shoulder hurts, raise your hand!'... Oops, that's right - you can't raise it because it hurts! I probably wouldn't make many friends asking you to tilt your head all the way back, either. The point I'm trying to make is that most of us have (or are) experiencing some kind of shoulder or neck pain - from tightness and discomfort to numbness and sharp debilitating electric-like shocks.

The good news is that unless you've suffered a serious accident, the pain in your shoulders and neck is due to under use and postural imbalances. "Under use?!?" - Yes, indeed. The commodities of modern life have lessened the requirements on our shoulders. If not for some sporadic movements - like, pulling a sweater over your head - our arms hardly go above our head. Oh, we women have an advantage - doing our hair actually does require quite some strength in the shoulders. I can remember times when I didn't have enough of it and had to take a break while ... doing my hair.

A function not used is lost. That's the way it goes. Our bodies are very efficient and adaptive going in either direction - from being functional to being dysfunctional, and back again. Due to inactivity and the constant forward tug on our shoulders and neck - driving, typing, remote control operating (I have to count that as an activity), the shoulders lose their original function - the muscles needed to hold them back atrophy, and it becomes common place to have shoulder pain. Add to that some stress, and you have the perfect recipe for neck pain and tightness.

Most of us don't see the shoulders as one of the major load-bearing joints in the same class as the ankles, knees, and hips. However, once you get on a horse, you realize how important the shoulders are in supporting your body in the proper position. Therefore, it becomes very important to have the necessary flexibility and range of motion in the shoulders to meet the requirements of riding.

We are giving you two sets of exercises that address a preparation phase for riding (the Warm Up Menu) and a strengthening phase (Shoulder Strengthening Menu).

Warm Up Menu:

1. Standing Arm Circles

2. Standing Elbow Curls

3. Upper Spinal Floor Twist

4. Cats & Dogs

5. Downward Dog

6. Pull Ups

Shoulder Strengthening Menu:

1. Standing Shoulder Rolls

2. Table Sequence

3. Hand-leg Opposite Lifts on Hands and Knees

4. Cats & Dogs

5. Sitting Floor Wall Glides

6. Supermans

7. Core Abdominals

8. Squat

We recommend that you do the Warm Up Menu every time before you get on a horse and the Shoulder Strengthening Menu three times a week. In conjunction, the two menus will work to keep your shoulders in proper position, strengthen them, and help alleviate the tightness that usually comes after riding.

 


 

Standing Arm Circles

How to Perform this E-cise™: Stand facing mirror with your feet pointed straight ahead. Place your finger tips into the pad of each hand and point your thumb straight out. This hand position is imperative to the exercise being done correctly. It is called the golfer's grip. Squeeze your shoulder blades together backwards and bring your arms out to your sides at shoulder level. With your palms facing downward, circle up and forward for 20 repetitions. With your palms facing upward, circle up and back for 20 repetitions. Remember to keep your feet straight and your shoulder blades squeezed together.

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes bilateral lumbar function through thoracic stabilization


 

Standing Elbow Curls

How to Perform this E-cise™: Stand against a wall with your feet pointed straight ahead. Keep your heels, hips, upper back and head against the wall. Place your knuckles against your temples with your thumbs pointed down to your shoulders. Open your elbows so that they are against the wall then close your elbows together in front of your face. REPEAT

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes proper positioning of all load joints while performing thoracic flexion and extension


Upper Spinal Floor Twist

How to Perform this E-cise™: Lie on one side in the fetal position with your arms straight out ahead of you on the floor. Open the top arm to the other side and look in the same direction. Do NOT let your knees come apart while moving the arm to the other side. You can take your bottom arm over to hold the knees together. HOLD this position and allow your body to open up.

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes upper torso rotation to engage the pelvic girdle stabilization response


 

Cats & Dogs

How to Perform this E-cise™: Get on your hands and knees. CAT: Pull your hips under, pull your head under and push your upper back to the ceiling. DOG: Roll your hips forward to put the arch in your back, collapse your shoulder blades together and look up. REPEAT and remember to drop your shoulder blades together in the dog position.

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes bilateral spine flexion and extension while loading the shoulder and hip joints


 

Downward Dog

How to Perform this E-cise™: Start on your hands and knees as in the Cat and Dog position. Pull your toes under to grip and proceed to lift your knees off the floor into the pike position. As seen in the photo, your goal is to pull your upper body through your arms toward the floor. Your heels do NOT have to be on the floor (though this is the goal). Concentrate more on trying to roll your hips forward to place an arch in your low spine. Tighten your thighs and hold. The main keys for this exercise are to not bend your knees and to place the arch in your low back.

What this E-cise™ does: This exercise engages the extensor muscles of the body from head to toe.


Pull-ups

How to Perform this E-cise™: Hang from a pull up bar. Your hands (fingers facing forward) are wide apart and your feet are off the ground. Begin to pull yourself up toward the bar. Keep your chest out and shoulder blades squeezed together. Don't let your knees come forward into a curl position. Pull chin over the bar keeping your chest out and slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Be sure to lower yourself all the way down, allowing your arms to straighten. If you have to you can curl your heels up, but don't let your knees come forward.


 

Standing Shoulder Rolls

How to Perform this E-cise™: Stand facing a mirror with your feet pointed straight ahead. Hang your hands by your sides to help ensure that you're going to move your shoulders and not just your arms and hands. Circle your shoulders forward by pulling your shoulders back then up then relax them forward to the beginning position. (Repeat 10x) To circle backward, circle your shoulders up then back then down to the beginning position again. (Repeat 10x)

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes the proper position of the scapula and thoracic extension


Table Sequence 1

How to Perform this E-cise™: Lie flat on a table or counter with your head, shoulders and arms hanging over the edge. Your feet should be pigeon toed so that your heels are dropped away from each other. Place your hands into the golfer's grip. Your head remains down. Then keep your arms straight/locked and bring them straight ahead of your head as high as you can and then return them back down. You should only feel the movement in the arms and shoulders and NOT in the hips and legs (they should remain relaxed).

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes proper alignment of the upper body, shoulders, and scapulas, by strengthening the upper posterior muscles of the back.


Hand-leg Opposite Lifts on Hands and Knees

How to Perform this E-cise™: Start on your hands and knees. Raise one arm and reach forward with that arm as you raise the opposite leg to hip level and reach back with that leg. HOLD for 10 seconds and then switch sides. REPEAT and do not let your hips shift from side to side.

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes pelvic stabilization and alternate extensor function


Sitting Floor Wall Glides

How to Perform this E-cise™: Sit on the floor with your hips, upper back and head against a wall. Straighten both of your legs out ahead of you with your thighs tight and your toes pulled back. Keep your feet pointed straight to the ceiling. Place your arms/hands on the wall in a goalpost position so a 90 degree angle forms at your elbows. Slowly glide your arms/hand on the wall so that they meet about 4 inches above your head. Try to keep your hands, wrists and elbows against the wall at all times while gliding. Glide your arms back to the beginning position and REPEAT. Remember the legs and feet.

What this E-cise™ Does: Properly positions the hips and the upper body in relation to one another


Supermans

How to Perform this E-cise™: Lie on your stomach with your arms outstretched overhead. Lift your arms and hands up about six inches off the floor while also lifting both legs up off floor about six inches. HOLD for the desired amount of time. It should feel as if you are reaching and lifting in both directions.

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes engagement of the extensors of the trunk, pelvis, and legs


Core Abdominals

How to Perform this E-cise™: Position 1: Lie on your stomach propped up on your elbows. Pull your toes under and bridge your body up off the floor. Let your shoulder blades collapse together. There will be a slight abdominal and quadriceps (thigh) tightening to help stabilize your mid body. HOLD

Position 2: Lie on your side propped up on your elbow with the other arm resting along with your body and your feet stacked upon each other. Lift your hips up off the floor and hold. Let your shoulder blades come together and the exercise will be felt on the side of your stomach/abdominal area closest to the floor. HOLD

Position 3: Perform the Position 2 exercise on the opposite side.

Position 4: Lie on your backside propped up on your elbows. Lift your hips/buttocks up off the floor and you MUST keep your toes pulled back as much as possible. As you lift your hips off the floor, try to think about pushing your chest to the ceiling and allowing your shoulder blades to come together. Remember to keep your toes pulled back toward your hips. HOLD

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes load joint stabilization in a horizontal plane


 

Squat

How to Perform this E-cise™: Stand facing the door jam or anything you can hold onto that is about chest high. Keep your feet facing straight ahead and about 6 inches apart. Keep your elbows straight and tilt your pelvis forward to create an exaggerated arch in your low back. HOLD this hip position and begin to bend your knees down so that your hips are lowering toward the floor. Keep your elbows straight and the low back arch and HOLD.

What this E-cise™ does: Promotes anterior and lateral hip demand to support the spinal column (under load)


 

Enjoy!

About the author:

A desire to maximize her athletic abilities brought Lina to The Egoscue Method® Clinic in San Diego. Little did she expect that along with increasing her athleticism, also came a relief of old, nagging pains.

For more information:

The Egoscue Method Clinic
12707 High Bluff Drive
Del Mar, CA 92130
858-755-1075
800-995-8434
athletics@egoscue.com

If you have any questions about the above e-cise routine, please feel free to contact The Egoscue Method at 800-995-8434 or e-mail them at therapists@egoscue.com.

Coming your way - The Egoscue Method's Travel Therapy Team is pleased to be able to duplicate the Clinic experience in a setting where you can benefit just as if you were in the California or Connecticut facilities. Here's a link to more about travel therapy, dates, and locations: www.egoscue.com/htdocs/therapy/travel.asp

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