Recently, I've been focusing on incorporating more connective tissue release and stretching practices into my own personal routine—and sharing it with others. The advantage of this practice is that it works to break up adhesions, elongate your muscles, and release muscular tension. All of this equals a greater range of motion and increased comfort for your shoulder and neck muscles.
For shoulder tension, it's important to focus on releasing both the front and the back muscles surrounding your shoulders. A lot of shoulder and neck tension can be caused by tight chest muscles due to (you guessed it!) the overuse of computers and cellphones.
There are a number of different ways to release the tension we hold in our shoulders and necks, but here are my three favorites:
One of the best ways to do this is to use a myofascial release tool or a lacrosse ball to passively create length in the connective tissue. This can be done by simply rolling the ball gently underneath the collar bones, out toward the front of the arm, and back again.
One of my favorite shoulder releases is holding the ball up toward the front part of your armpit between your torso and arm. You can move it around as it feels good to you and when you discover a sensitive spot just hold and drape your arm into the ball. Remember to keep breathing with the release.
Thoracic spine stretch
Incorporating more active stretches will also help to provide the desired effects of creating longer more functional muscles. The above stretch is great for finding mobility of your thoracic spine, flexibility in the upper back with a targeted release of your trapezius, rhomboid, and serratus anterior muscles. You can use a countertop if you don't have access to a barre. As you breathe in, create length in your spine, and as you exhale, see if you can rotate a little farther. Keeping your back leg active and your front inner thigh engaged will aid you in feeling more length between your shoulder blades. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
Finding space through the chest area is equally important to shoulder health. This is my all-time favorite chest opener. Focus on reaching your heart forward and turning your thumbs toward the ceiling, creating external rotation of the arm bones in the joint for deeper release. Pay attention to keeping length through the back of your neck. Additionally, you can turn your chin toward each shoulder to release the muscles on the sides of your neck.
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