I feel that everyone has experienced upper back pain at some point. It is actually the most common area of complaint that I hear from clients coming in for massages. Upper back pain is very common, especially when the Rhomboid muscles, the muscles between the spine and scapula (shoulder blade), are all knotted up and causing you pain and discomfort.
For most of us, this is due to bad posture. Our lifestyles cater to a slouched and hunched over posture all day long. Whether you are driving, sitting at desk, or texting away on your phone, you will notice that your shoulders are rounded forward, neck may be extended slightly forward, and you may even be tilting your head in a downward direction.
All of these positions lead to pulling your upper back muscles into a lengthened position and your chest (pectoral) muscles to become locked down in a shortened position, causing a lot of your upper back pain. That is where stretching your chest and shoulders, in between your massage appointments, play an important role in your own self-care. Below are some links (green) to various shoulder and chest stretches that you may find useful.
Yoga Poses to Open Your Shoulders (Click link to see full list with photos of the poses. Below are a few of my favorite ones that I like to use for my shoulders).
Stretches for Upper Cross Syndrome
This website goes over some stretches for your pectoral muscles (pecs) as well as some scalene stretches (side of your neck area). When most people say that their upper back is bothering them (Rhomboid area), often times their pectoral muscles will be quite tight as well. To help relieve the muscles in your back, you need to release the muscles in your chest. They are playing tug-o-war with one another, with the pecs winning. If you allow the pec muscles to relax and lengthen, the rhomboids can then shorten back to their natural position, reducing pain and stiffness that you may be feeling.
Simple Stretches While At Your Desk
I hear all the time from clients that they are too busy to stretch. That they are stuck at a desk all day long. This website (even though a little silly in their presentation) shows several stretches that you can do while still seated at your desk. I also recommend keeping water at your desk and drink it. This will do two things for you. One, it will fill your bladder so that you will have to get up to use the restroom. Getting up and walking is great time to stretch your muscles and relieve them from that hunched over, seated position. Two, you need to refill that water bottle up again, which also requires you to get up from your desk. See where I am going with this? Mini breaks that only take a couple of minutes can do wonders for your posture!
So when you are unable to schedule your much needed massages, try some of these stretches in between appointments to see if they will help alleviate some of the upper back pain you may be experiencing. It's worth giving them a try. Let's keep your body moving.
Being stuck at home can be stressful and cause some physical pain as well. Since I am not able to physically help you in your time of need during this pandemic, I want to at least provide you with some resources to help reduce your discomfort. I asked if there are any areas you would like to know some good stretches for, and I heard that low back and hips were a top priority. So today, I will give some links to stretches that you can do at home for both low back and hips.
Lower back pain can be due to your athletic or workout routines, but it is most likely to be caused by your constant sitting patterns. Most Americans spend a majority of their waking day in a seated position. On a typical day, you sit to drink your morning coffee and eat breakfast. You sit during your commute to get to work. You probably sit at a desk most of the workday, then you sit some more on your commute home. You sit to eat dinner and then you may move to sitting on the couch to “unwind” from the day. Take a minute and think about what is happening to your muscles when you are sitting all day…you are keeping your hamstrings in a shortened position, which causes a strain and tension on your lower back.
So, usually when you tell me you have low back pain, I often ask to work on your glutes, hip flexors, and hamstrings. Why you ask? Take a minute and think about what is happening to your muscles when you are sitting all day. You are keeping your hamstrings in a shortened position, which causes a strain and tension on your lower back. For many people, when their hamstrings and glutes are tight, those muscles will pull downward, causing a strain on your lower back. By relaxing and lengthening your hamstrings, glutes, and hip flexors, we are alleviating the low back from taking on the added stress that these tight muscles are causing.
I did some researching and found some helpful links to some stretches that you can do at home to help alleviate that low back pain and hip pain. I tried to find a variety for you to view, from Yoga poses to basic stretches, and that encompass a few difference levels of flexibility. Check them out to see if any work for you.
Some of my favorite stretches that I do almost on a daily (after a nice gentle warmup and walking the dog) are:
*Floor Hamstring stretch
*Variation of Figure 4 stretch (you can sit in happy cow or with the lower leg out straight. Pull bent knee toward you and hug it as you sit up tall for a nice stretch. Then rest the bent leg onto of the straight one and bend forward at waist, keeping back straight for another stretch.)
*Legs spread wide stretches (floor) - side bends each side (great for the QL) and forward reach (great for adductors).
*Double pigeon (or logs on a fire as I know it) is my favorite for hips
*Child pose (need to add a little more of the QLs and Lats into the stretch? Slowly walk your hands to the side while pushing the opposite hip out.)
As always, please remember to do a gentle warm up before you go into any deep stretches. Get the blood flowing and muscles moving for a bit first. Do arm circles, march in place, trunk twists, shoulder rolls, slow neck yes and no’s, or any other gentle movements to wake your body up and get the muscles warmed up a bit. I would also like to advise that if you feel any pain to stop immediately. Stretching should be gentle and work with your own flexibility, not cause pain. Move into a stretch until you feel a slight barrier of resistance and breathe into it. Never push beyond where your body resists. This could cause a tear or injury and be counterproductive. With time, you will be able to move into a stretch deeper, but only when your body is ready.
I hope some of these links are helpful to you. Take care of yourself. You only get one body, so let’s keep it moving and feeling good.
Everywhere you go you hear sniffles, sneezes, nose blowing, and coughing. Colds and Flus usually start showing up as Fall sets in, and progresses throughout the Winter months. It can be hard to avoid, especially if you are around small children, lots of people, or handle money on a daily basis. So how do you reduce your risk of getting the cold or flu this season? Here are 8 tips that can help protect yourself against getting colds and the flu this year.
If you just started the year off with a new goal to hit the gym and get more workouts in, or if you have a set exercise routine, do frequent workouts, are an athlete and training, or an occasional weekend warrior crusader, you will notice some very sore and tight muscles after a workout or event. This feeling of being sore and tight may even last for several days afterwards, hindering you from moving freely about your day or through your next training or workout session. These sore muscles can hold you back from pushing yourself further to making progress in your workout and training goals. Soreness can slow you down from your workout goals.
Most people know that after exercising and training, that they should drink plenty of water and eat healthy, well-balanced meals. Proper hydration and nutrition will help your body recover and rebuild muscle by providing your body with the fuel that it needs. As with what you put inside your body, what you do externally plays are large roll too. Adding massage therapy into your workout and training routines will help aid you in feeling less sore and help increase your overall performance.
Massage therapy not only feels good, but it is good for you, especially if you exercise regularly or are an athlete. Receiving regular massages for exercisers and athletes will help with recovery and performance by allowing your body to rest, heal, and rebuild. Here are some of the key benefits to adding massage therapy into your workout routines.
If you are starting a new workout program, or if you are someone who regularly exercises or is an athlete, receiving frequent and regular massages is a key component in reaping the benefits. Just like your workouts, the more often and frequently you work out, the greater and quicker the results become. Massage therapy is the same way. The more often and consistently you receive massages, the greater and faster you will see improvements and the longer lasting these effects will have on the body. Ideally, if you are doing intense training, that involves working out about 5 days a week, you should get massages once or twice a week, preferably on your rest and recovery days. If you are just working out consistently 3 or 4 days a week with mid to high intensity workouts, once a week or every other week may help you reach your goals faster. If your workouts are more focused on health and fitness and vary between low to high intensity levels about 3 times a week, you may be fine with a monthly or bi-monthly maintenance massage. Everybody’s body is different. Learn to listen to your body. If it is telling you that it is sore and tired, take the time for recovery and allow it to heal through massage therapy. You will see better results in the long run and you will see an increase in your overall health and wellness as a result too.
Courtney Truax, LMT is a graduate of East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, Oregon. She is licensed through the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She has her own studio massage practice in the heart of downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.