4 Mobility Exercises to get rid of your Headache, Neck, and Shoulder Pain.
Spoiler alert: you can do it, yourself.
Whether you are suffering from shoulder pain, recurring tension headaches or neck tightness, you can still do something about it. All 3 of these things are often linked to poor posture (spending time seated with your head 6-inches out in front of you?), bad habits or upstream/downstream "tightness". Here is a shocker for you: I am a chiropractic student, and I still recommend you take a crack at solving your pain yourself (pun intended, but don't literally CRACK anything. That's MY job).
The muscles causing your neck pain, shoulder pain of headaches overlap, criss-cross and interweave. That is why it's not worth addressing one without the other. Sometimes your neck pain can come from tight shoulder muscles, or your headache can come from a 'stuck' upper back.
Each of the below mobilizations take as little as 2 minutes and can make IMMEDIATE changes, relieving your pain. They are easy to follow, hard to mess up and don't require any fancy mobility tools. Chances are you have some tennis balls or softballs kicking around that won't cost you a dime.
Below are my favorite exercises to help address something called 'upper-cross syndrome', which is a fancy way to say rounded shoulders and poor posture. Give them a shot, pick your favorites, and GET OUT OF PAIN.
BONUS: see below for a quick tutorial on how to make a Lacross (LAX) Ball Peanut (you could just as easily use a couple tennis balls or baseballs).
T-SPINE SMASH WITH LAX PEANUT
Lay on your back with the LAX Peanut placed underneath your T-Spine (upper back), with your spine in the grove between the lacrosse balls. Find tight spots in the muscle and use your arms to add tension to slowly alleviate the tension/pain. Once you are satisfied with one spot, move up or down the back until you find another spot.
Play with your arm positions to find tighter spots (my favorite is straight out in front, see img 2, and move my hands like I am driving a bus).
Do not place the LAX Peanut on your neck. Only go as low as your last rib.
Continue for 2-5 minutes.
PEC SMASH WITH LAX PEANUT
Lay on your stomach while propping the LAX balls up with one hand. The mobility tool should be placed beneath the collarbone and outside your sternum (i.e. not on the bony center of your chest). Use the same side arm to add tension while changing position. Spend time in the position that is most restricted (i.e. tightest). Move the lacrosse ball around periodically as tension decreases.
While tension radiating into the arm/neck is normal, it should not be excessive. IF YOU EXPERIENCE NUMBNESS OR TINGLING, STOP AND CHANGE POSITIONS.
Continue for 2 mins/side.
UPPER NECK RELEASE (BASE OF SKULL) WITH LAX PEANUT
Place the LAX Peanut at the base of your skull where your neck muscleS meet the bone. Simply hang out in this position and perform small movements to add pressure and/or relieve tension. If you need additional pressure you can use your arm to add weight to your forehead.
Continue for 2 mins
NECK/JAW RELEASE WITH LAX BALL
1. Place a lacrosse ball on your jaw. Open and close your mouth. You can also use the ball top wind up the tissue before moving the jaw.
2. Place the lacrosse ball on the front/side of your neck (not the throat). Turn your head to the side and look down to make the muscle 'pop' if you have trouble finding the right position. Wind up the lacrosse ball and then look up and down until movement is smooth and tension free.
Continue for 2 mins/side
-Mark Murdoch. Chiropractic Student (University of Western States). Kinesiologist.
BONUS: How to make a LAX Ball Peanut