Yoga and Neck Pain

With the rise in use of computers and commuting long distances to work, neck and shoulder pain seems to be on the increase. We have some yoga postures to help with this pain, but first let’s look at what causes it.

If we look at the model of the head, neck and shoulders, we can liken the head to a ball bearing (weighing on average 8-12 lbs), balancing on top of the neck and being held in place by muscles from the shoulders (scapula, head of humerus (arm bone) and clavical (collar bones).   These muscles are working against gravity to keep the head in a central position over the neck.  Spending long periods of time at a computer or steering wheel will over a prolonged period of time cause neck/shoulder problems.    The reason is that we are not meant to be still for long periods of time, we are built to move.

Even if you have your work station ergonomically checked so that you are sitting in the correct position with your computer at the right height, with the correct seat height etc, it may be more comfortable for a while but over a period of time you will undoubtedly experience neck and/or shoulder pain, or perhaps other issues such as headaches, trapped nerves or tiredness caused by seized up joints in the neck.   In a seated position with the arms held out in front, the muscles around the shoulder blades and upper back have to be partially contracted to hold up your arms.  This is where the problem begins because these muscles are fixed in this position.  You may not realise it, but often the head protrudes forward to the screen, and those muscles have a hard job trying to pull your head back to where it should naturally be.

Inactivity of these muscles causes immobility of the neck, particularly in C7 (the bottom vertebrae in the neck that takes most of the weight of the head).   If C7 becomes compressed, this can cause a whole host of symptoms.

We need movement to keep everything working: imagine getting your old pushbike out of the shed that you haven’t moved for a long time, the pedals will be stiff and difficult to move to begin with.  The more you pedal, the looser and freer it will become.   This is why you should take regular breaks from your workstation/car and move the neck, shoulders, arms, chest and back.   There are many yoga poses that can help alleviate muscle aches and pains and improve mobility and stretch out tight muscles.   Prevention is always better than cure.   Even 5 minutes worth of exercises will help enormously.   Try to move the body at least every hour, get up out of your seat, walk around, and stretch.   In the long term it will be much more productive as you won’t have to take time off work with a bad neck!

Asanas recommended for neck and shoulders:-

  1. Slow shoulder rolls backwards and forwards
  2. Slow neck rolls from site to side (sweeping chin down and across chest left and right)
  3. Slow side to side ear to shoulder stretches – see picture below
  4. Chin to chest and to side (allow gravity to stretch back of neck) – see picture below
  5. Eagle Posture (arms only) – see picture below
  6. Seated Spinal twist – see picture below
  7. Chest Opener (place hands in base of back and squeeze elbows together)

Come along to one of our weekly classes and you can learn all these and more.

Neck pain stretch

(3) Ear to shoulder stretch

Neck pain stretch 2

(4) Chin to chest and to side

Eagle Arms

(5) Eagle Arms

Seated spinal twist

(6) Seated spinal twist