“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”
Many of my new clients suffer from neck pain, upper back pain and shoulder pain. They may spend a small fortune on chiropractors and massage therapists, hoping to relieve their constant aches and pains.
If your shoulders are rounded forward and your upper back is slumped, however, you may continue to experience upper back pain, shoulder pain and neck pain no matter how often you visit the chiropractor or massage therapist.
The solution is to correct the condition known as kyphosis. Kyphosis, often recognized as hunchback, is all too common in our society. Technically speaking, if your thoracic curve is greater than 35 degrees, you are kyphotic. People slump over their steering wheel on the way to work, only to slump over their desks and computers on the job, only to slump over their small children when they get home. Then they think in order to look better they need to go to Pilates class, which includes way too much forward folding and not enough extension (also known as back bending) movements for the spine, and they continue to fold into themselves. The apotheosis of this condition can be seen in many older adults, wearily bent forwards as if the ravages of time had weighed them down and defeated them.
I have put together a series of simple exercises you can do to correct kyphosis, which will be one of the many easy things you can do to correct shoulder pain, neck pain and upper back pain. Although you can use a yoga strap, I prefer to use a broom handle that you can purchase at any ACE Hardware store for about $4. I like the broom handle because the second and fourth exercises involve gripping the stick and pulling apart with strength, an isometric movement that allows you to engage the deep muscles of the back.
Fantastic Posture – Exercise No. 1
Stretch your chest. Hold the stick behind you and lift up to a comfortable stretch, opening the pectoral muscles. Hold for 5 breaths, breathing deeply and relaxing.
Fantastic Posture – Exercise No. 2
Still stretching your chest, now grip the stick and pull apart, using strength to pull right and left. This will open your chest even further and engage your upper back. Relax and breathe.
Fantastic Posture – Exercise No. 3
Stretch your latissimus dorsi and shoulders. Hold your stick over your head and pull back towards your ears. Relax your neck and shoulders, creating space between the ears and the shoulders. Remember to soften your knees and keep your lower back relaxed. Hold 5 breaths.
Fantastic Posture – Exercise No. 4
Still stretching your lats, now grip your stick and pull apart, engaging the deep muscle fibers. I think this is the most challenging exercise – or at least it is for me. Remember to relax your face and avoid co-contractions. Hold 5 breaths.
Fantastic Posture – Exercise No. 5
Fantastic Posture – Result
Now that you have stretched your chest and your lats and your shoulders, notice how you can stand up straight. You will notice that you will be able to breathe better, because when you slump, it is difficult for your lungs to get a deep breath. Good posture is simply defined as the place in space where you are most biomechanically efficient. You will find that you do everything better when you use good posture – and you will look better too!
One of my clients who immediately grasped the benefit of these exercises was Ellie Richards. She immediately went to ACE Hardware and bought not just one but two broom handles.
“I can’t tell you how many people I have shown these exercises,” Ellie reports. The exercises have dramatically reduced her neck pain, which was exacerbated by her job as a reading teacher at the Atlanta Speech School. In one week of practicing, her chronic neck pain went from a 5 out of 10 to a 3 out of 10. She bends over little kids all day long and has spent years bending over a bicycle handle. “I told my hair stylist when I was sitting in the chair and she wanted to be sure I showed the exercises to her before I left.”
Now that the exercises are in my newsletter, you can share the photographs and directions with as many friends as you like.
“I am standing up straighter,” Ellie Richards reports.
Barrie Moore of Lincoln, England, has been doing the exercises since coming to Atlanta for a one-week intensive. “ I feel the exercises are very easy to do and at the same time highly effective. I feel a lot more balanced with my posture from doing them and in particular my shoulders feel back and down with my chest raised slightly.The weight is also clearly more centralised after doing the exercises with the support of feeling grounded too. I feel taller afterwards and find it easier to breathe after doing the exercises.
For the last couple of days I seem to do best by doing two repetitions of each one.”