Neck and Shoulder Pain? Try this

SMR at Timonium personal training gym

Stephen Holt, Timonium personal trainer

Millions of readers of national fitness magazines including Shape, Women's Health, Fitness. Woman's Day, Family Circle, Runner's World, (and many others) have made their exercise programs both more effective AND more efficient with fitness and nutrition advice from "America's Baby Boomer Expert," Stephen Holt.

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard all about the magic of foam rolling (or lax balls, tennis balls, the GRID, Bloob-Allz etc.) or what we pros call Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) for all types of pain – including neck and shoulder pain.

SMR is really easy to do and well worth your time.

What you see above is what we call Thoracic Mobilization. Simply, we’re trying to get the muscles of your upper back, shoulders, and neck to relax. In many cases, tightness in your neck and shoulder can come from lack of mobility in your thoracic spine (upper back).

Yes, I know what you’re thinking:

Hey, that’s exactly where I carry my stress!

And, no, I’m not clairvoyant. There are neurological reasons – too deep to even get started – we all carry our stress there.

Here’s what you do to alleviate your neck and shoulder pain:

– Take a tennis ball (lax ball if you’re a veteran or extra brave)

– Place it on the floor

– Lie on top of the ball so that the ball is a couple of inches AWAY from your spine (that’s where the tight muscles live)

– If you have “issues” like our model, you may cradle your head in your hands. Your long range goal would be to get your head to the floor.

– Now scooch around using as little effort as humanly possible (remember, we’re trying to relax here) and try to find a spot that feels a little sore

– Once you find a spot, hang out there for a few seconds and take a deep breath or two

– You can move on to a different spot on the same side or find a spot on the other side of your spine. Don’t be surprised if you have more sore spots on one side than the other.

How Long?

My usual answer: “Whatcha got?

Seriously, I know trainers who do SMR classes, as in 30 minutes or so.

If you have the time, you can think of it as a really cheap massage and roll every muscle.

But the other extreme is okay, too …

If you find you have one or two really annoying spots – typically your neck or around your shoulders, it’s great to take 30 seconds or so for SMR at least before working out if not every day.

Give it a shot and let me know how you do.
– Stephen


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