Body pain could feel as though everything else takes a back seat. Pain and discomfort can take over, affecting life on a daily basis. One common area of the body that can injure easily or cause pain is the neck. With proper therapy and consultation with a doctor, that pain could subside.
Yoga Poses for Neck Pain
Neck pain is associated with the upper back and shoulders. Repetitive everyday activity and certain yoga postures such as inversions can intensify those pains as well. Inflamed, tight, overstretched, or underused muscles in the shoulders, rotator cuff and upper back can affect the neck and surrounding areas causing headaches, back and shoulder pain. The cervical vertebrae are a very sensitive and fragile section of the spine. If experiencing neck pain, aggressively stretching the neck can cause injury. It is important to be gentle when stretching, flexing, extending, or rotating the cervical and thoracic spine.
Certain every day actions that require rotation of the head may be taken for granted when feeling healthy. Once neck pain occurs, these everyday actions can feel impossible to achieve. For example, looking over the shoulder to switch lanes while driving or simply laying the head down on a pillow at night can be challenging. In a yoga practice, postures that require shoulder abduction, flexion and extension can be painful or strenuous. Why? Because the levator scapula and upper trapezius muscles of the neck and shoulders assist in these directions of movement in the neck. (Dropping one ear to a shoulder is lateral flexion and head circles is an example of rotation.) If these muscles are pinched, tight, overstretched or misused, the body’s range of motion can be limited.
If experiencing minor neck pain try these yoga poses to find some relief. Neck injury is serious. It is always recommended to consult a physician before performing any of these exercises.
With a focus on the upper part of the body, the cat motion is an excellent stretch for the erector spinae group that runs along the spine from the sacrum to the occiput. Each inhale expands the ribs and stretches the intercostals muscles in between the ribs for a fuller breath. (A lot of tension can be built up in the shoulders and neck which is why breathing is essential for releasing tension from the body.) The upper and lower trapezius, deltoid, rotator cuff muscles (suprispinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor), and latissimus dorsi benefit from the cat posture as well. The upper trapezius muscles connect at the base of the scull called the occiput, which can aide in releasing tension from the neck.
Cow, provides a stretch for the abdominal wall and pectoralis group delivering an opening in the front body. As the pectoralis muscles weaken and tighten a rounding in the spine and upper back occurs, creating that forward head motion. This combination of postural alignment and the weight of the head on the cervical spine can assist in neck pain. The cow motion gives the front body a chance to open up and expand.
Child’s pose lengthens the spine from cervical to lumbar and stretches the lattismus dorsi when shoulders are in flexion. The action of rolling the forehead from side to side is a safe and easy way to find a release in the shoulders and neck. Tightness in the jaw can affect neck muscles. Offering the chance to relax in the jaw and face here is beneficial to the health of the neck.
Thread the needle
The combination of neck rotation and shoulder adduction creates a therapeutic release for the neck. The action of threading the arm through and placing weight onto the shoulder stretches the forearm, biceps, shoulder blade, and neck. One of the rotator cuff muscles that is located in the infraspinous fossa of the scapula (shoulder blade) is the infraspinatus. The infraspinatus muscles assists in adducting the shoulder in thread the needle. The weight of the body on the shoulder blade is a great stretch for this muscle as well. Options to support the head with a blanket can ad ease and restoration to a sometimes challenging posture.
Shoulder opener on blocks
This posture assists in a release for the upper trapezius which connect to the base of the skull. As the head drops down through the arms, the levator scapulae, trapezius, rhomboids, triceps, and pectoralis muscles receive a healing stretch here. This stretch is easily accessible at your work desk, kitchen counter, or on books at home.
Neck pain can hinder the most minimal actions and activities. Addressing the issue and safely relieving the pain by stretching and soothing the surrounding muscles can help tremendously. Tap into body awareness and identify patterns that may cause the problem, rest, and try these yoga poses for neck pain. With a combination of physician approval and the above yoga stretches , neck pain could subside.
Biel, Andrew. Trail Guide to the Body: A hands on guide to locating muscles, bones and more. 4th edition, Books of Discovery. 1997.