Tackling Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain by Walking Like An Egyptian

Written by Philip Walter on Feb 25 at 5:42 am in bodyweight, itBODYnature, stretching, upper body pressing muscles, upper body pulling muscles

photo credit: Martin Kingsley

Chronic neck and shoulder stiffness and pain are symptoms many of us deal with on a daily basis. Whether it’s a nagging crick in your neck, a pain that keeps you from being able to turn and check your blind spot while driving, or inhibited range of motion in your shoulder joint that keeps you from doing certain exercises in the gym, most of us in the modern world are affected by some form of this discomfort in the neck and shoulder area.

While there are cases where severe shoulder injury will require surgery or some other invasive intervention to realize recovery, these symptoms are more often a result of the modern human lifestyle, and that means you have the power to eradicate them by making a few of the following lifestyle changes.

  • Identify where you carry stress – Many of us, myself included, carry the bulk of their stress load in their neck and shoulders. The next time somebody cuts in front of you on the interstate, take inventory of your posture. Are your shoulder blades splaying outward? Are your shoulders creeping up toward your ears? Are the muscles in your neck collapsing your cervical vertebrae? Take note of these things and try to be more mindful in times of stress. Breathe deeply. As a rule, try to keep your shoulder blades parallel to the midline of the body and relatively close to the spine. Also work on relaxing your shoulders down away from your ears.
  • Push and pull together – A common cause of these symptoms is muscle imbalance between the front and back of the body. For this reason it’s imperative that you work your back at least as much as your chest when you’re in the gym. Overdeveloped chest muscles are a big culprit as they tend to pull the shoulders forward, causing the shoulder blades to splay outward, decreasing their stability. It’s important to pay attention to your levator scapulae, rhomboids, and infraspinatus muscles. These are very important in stabilizing the shoulder joint in overhead presses and other movements involving external rotation of the upper arm (humerous). Check out this great article by Medhi at stronglifts.com for more on working with the infraspinatus muscle.
  • Know your ergonomics – Another reason we have such problems with posture is the amount of time we spend sitting in front of computers every day. Slouching at the desk is probably inevitable, but check out this website for some great info on workstation ergonomics that could help you get your posture back on track.
  • Develop your range of motion – The shoulder joint is a ball and socket configuration, giving it a wide range of possible movements including flexion and extension, abduction and adduction, rotation around the center-line of the humerous, and circumduction (which is basically drawing a circle in the air with your hand). Take a look at the video tutorial below for some great mobility exercises to take your shoulder joint through its entire range of motion. This will help improve your kinesthetic awareness and increase your ability to stabilize your shoulder joint and your shoulder girdle (collarbone and shoulder-blade).

I’ll warn you, this video is a full 10 minutes long. I’ve made some improvements on the first edition, though. The exercises all happen in the first five minutes, while the latter five minutes is more technical. Please comment below and let me know how I might improve on my communications. Thanks for reading and watching!

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