3 Exercises for Neck Pain


How many of you reading this look like the picture above? Hunched over at our workstations punching away at the keyboard. Whether it be for work, or just general websurfing and facebook stalking into the late hours of the evening, a rounded shoulder posture such as this, is literally lining us up for a pain in the neck, amongst a myriad of other potential issues. My aim for this blog is to give you a few exercises to help improve the mobility of our thoracic (upper) spine and help ward of some of the tightnessess and painful symptms our typical desk posture can bring!

In human anatomy, twelve thoracic vertebrae compose the middle segment of the spine. They sit between the cervical vertebrae (mainly in the neck)and the lumbar vertebrae (our middle and lower back). They are intermediate in size between those of the cervical and lumbar regions and in movement they have two important jobs, extension and rotation. The nice thing about thoracic spine mobility is that almost no one has enough and it's hard to get too much, these exercises will help improve the ability to extend and rotate through this part of your back, lubricating the joints and stretching tight muscles.

By no means is this an exhaustive list. Regular stretching and massage is also important to help with good posture and muscle tissue quality. Gives these a try for 5-10minutes each night and let me know how you go!

  • The first exercises in this series of three is called a 4-point thoracic rotation. Position yourself on your hands and knees with one hand behind your head. Make sure that the lower back is straight and you maintain neutral curve in your low back throughout this exercise. Bring the elbow of the arm behind the head towards the opposite knee. From this position try to “open up” as far as possible. Concentrate on keeping the motion in the upper back, feeling as though you are pivoting and rotating on your ribcage. Repeat this movement rhymically several times.
  • The second exercise is called a side-lying trunk rotation. Position yourself on your side with your hips pointing directly up toward the sky/ceiling. Ensure that your hips stay in this position throughout the exercise, so you do not twist through your low back. Place your hands one on top of the other at 90 degrees to your body. Use you’re your hands and arms to help “open up” through your trunk. Again you should feel and though you are moving and pivoting from your ribcage. Most people will feel tightness through the front part of their chest and shoulder, and little bit through their trunk and abdominals. Don’t force your arm to the floor, let gravity take you as far as you can. Hold at the end-point and complete 4-5 deep breaths. As you exhale, relax into the stretch and let gravity pull you into a deeper range of motion.
  • The final exercise to try works on improving the extension portion of the thoracic spine. Its called a prone exercise-ball superman. Lay yourself across a exercise ball so that your belly is resting on the ball and your low back is supported in a neutral position. Let your upper back and ribcage slump forward over the ball. From this position, lift yourself up through the ribcage. Let the movement come the upper part of your spine, don’t just ‘hinge’ from your low back. Imagine you are peeling yourself up from the floor like a sticker. The muscles you should feel working run down either side of your spine. Keep your eyes facing so you are not lifting and hitching through the neck. If you don’t have a ball, you can try this exercise from the floor.

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