Orthopedic Specialists Scarborough ME
South Portland, ME
Patient Care Facility
By Meghan Rabbitt
You know the feeling all too well : You’re working at your desk, trying to meet a deadline, and tension creeps between your shoulder blades and starts to move up your neck. Or you’re sitting in traffic, late for a coffee date, when a dull ache starts to form in your lower back. Or maybe you’re trying to take a nap, but can’t seem to get comfortable thanks to the tightness in your legs.
“Everyone has at least one weak link in their body, and physical and emotional stress tends to go straight for that spot,” says Larry Frieder, DC, a chiropractor in Boulder, Colorado. “But the good news is that bringing more awareness to your weak points and learning how to reduce the stress that’s causing your discomfort can eliminate chronic pain.” Here’s how.
Why Stress Strikes: Whether you’re stuck in traffic, staring at your computer, or reading a book, the forward motion of your head causes your neck and upper shoulder muscles to fire continuously in order to counteract the weight of your skull. “Plus, when you’re focusing on a screen or a fairly small area for long periods of time, your eyes are looking side to side but your neck is usually locked into the same position,” says Elizabeth Larkam, director of Pilates & Beyond for Western Athletic Clubs in San Francisco. “And since your eye and neck muscles are connected, this creates an imbalance.”
Tension Tamer: Ease eye strain.
To understand how the muscles of your eyes are connected to your neck, place the pads of your fingers on either side of your spine just below your hairline, says Larkam. Then move your eyes from side to side. You should feel your neck muscles moving. To give those a good stretch, change your focus. If you’re looking at something close to you, switch your gaze to something far away for a few minutes, every 20 to 30 minutes. To work each eye muscle even more, cover one eye and focus on something in the distance. Another exercise: Gently turn your head to the right and gaze to the left; then turn your head to the left and gaze to the right.
Why Stress Strikes: The muscles of the upper trapezius activate when we’re startled or react to a fight-or-flight stimulus, says Larkam. And since most of us experience this state of stress on a somewhat continuous basis, the muscles between the base of the skull and the shoulders are “scrunched” more often than not, causing tension. Another instigator? Shallow breathing, which causes the muscles in the upper torso to become even more tense.
Tension Tamer: Belly breathing
Place your thumb on the back of your rib cage and your first finger on the side and slightly to the front of your ribs. As you breathe in, feel your rib cage move wide to the side; take a quick pause at the top of your inhale, then exhale. It helps to do this in a rhythm: Breathe in for a count of four, hold for four counts at the top of the breath, breathe out for four, and hold for four counts at the end of your exhale. Gradually increa...
Author: Meghan Rabbitt
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