Flexibility for Neck Health!
So, it's been a busy tour, or shift for that matter, you had a fire, did some overhaul and took down a ceiling. Or, you had busy day with patients, no one could walk today and a lot of 3 story walk-ups with no elevators. Had to use the stretcher a ton. Is your neck sore? Do you have a headache? Probably.
You see, as you get tired (or stressed), what happens is we inevitably start to shrug our shoulders, whether you are conscious of it or not. In fact, push your shoulders down right now. See how much they moved? Poor computer placement is also a terrible thing. With your shoulders elevated, 2 large muscles are being activated, or shortened, the trapezius and the levator scapula. Both play a role in shoulder elevation and neck movement, with the trapezius playing a larger role in other shoulder movements such as squeezing your shoulder blades together. Guess what. These 2 muscles are also GREAT stress carriers! Have some stress? They love to get tight and knot up when you do. This causes trigger point activation, headaches, and general soreness to the area.
With my last post, I told you about those little buggers called trigger points, and how to try to self treat them. Here is the next tool in your arsenal. STRETCHES! Anecdotally, barring any external force trauma, most of the musculoskeletal injuries I see in the clinic are directly related to flexibility, or the lack there of. So how do we attempt to permanently lengthen a muscle? Stretching? No way. Now I know it is semantics and yes, I am providing you with stretches, but I prefer to look at stretching like this: stretching is what you do to prepare for activity, whereas FLEXIBILITY is what we do to cause a permanent change in the length of the muscle. Difference? Time. When we are trying a cardiovascular workout, we are generally engaging in the activity for at least 20 minutes, correct? Strength training. How long? Say... 25-60 minutes? Well, flexibility training will also take you an extended period of time in order to do it properly and gain the most benefits from your time and effort.
How to Perform the Program Properly
Below are some basic stretches in a FLEXIBILITY program applied to some very troublesome muscles in the neck and shoulder girdle. These muscles are the same muscles I spoke about in the trigger point blog. When doing the flexibility program, you MUST hold each stretch for 30sec. NO CHEATING! Use a timer or clock with a second hand because if you try to count, you will count too fast and not obtain the timeline we require for the program to be effective, 30 seconds for each repetition. Now, each stretch should be performed 3 times per side (if it is a unilateral movement). Ensure all 3 are done on one side before switching to the other.