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Improve How Your Neck and Shoulders Move and Feel...

In our last edition, we reviewed some basic anatomy and the connections of muscles to our head, neck, shoulders, and rib cage.  These connections explain how posture and movement habits of our rib cage and shoulders can affect our head, neck, and shoulders.

There is one activity we must do all day long and, when performed well requires minimal muscular effort and should not affect our head, neck, or shoulders negatively.  However, if done in a suboptimal fashion repeatedly can have a profound negative effect on how our head, neck, and shoulders move and feel and how we breathe.

Let’s take a look at how breathing can affect how our upper body feels and moves.

The primary muscle of respiration is our diaphragm muscle, a dome-shaped muscle that sits inside our ribcage and attaches to the lower ribs and spine.  When we inhale, the dome flattens and, upon exhale, resumes the dome shape.  We also have muscles in between our ribs called intercostals which help move our ribs as we breathe.  When we breathe efficiently, these muscles do most of the work.  There are smaller muscles that attach to our rib cage from our neck and shoulders that can assist with efficient breathing.  We run into trouble when these smaller muscles take a larger more consistent part in how we breathe.


Check and see how efficiently you are breathing:


Place your fingertips on your collarbones.  Walk them to the center until you reach the notch between them.  Let your fingertips rest at the top edge of both collarbones. You should feel a muscle under your fingers here. Take a few breaths in and out.  Do you feel that muscle getting tighter or coming up into your fingers?

Next, walk your fingers along the top of your collarbones about 2-3 inches out towards your shoulders. Gently let your fingertips roll over the collarbone onto the skin above it.  Take a few breaths in again.  Do you feel tightness under your fingers or feel muscles coming up into your fingers?

If unsure, you can look in a mirror as you breathe. Do you easily notice your chest rising or the muscles in your neck ‘popping’ out?

When we breathe optimally, these muscles may ‘assist’ with breathing mechanics but not so much as we can see or quickly feel or see them working.

The muscles we just had you feel or look at are attached from your upper ribs and breastbone to your head and neck. 

On average, we take 22,000 breaths per day. If you struggle with neck, head, shoulder, or back discomfort, how you breathe all day long may contribute to the problem.

Here is the good news.

When you learn how to breathe efficiently, you can improve the motion of your head, neck, shoulders, and spine. 

Let’s test the theory.  If improving the quality of how you breathe can improve how you move.

  1. Check the quality of your neck movement.

  2. Turn your head to the right.

  3. Return your head to the center.

  4. Turn your head to the left

  5. Return to center

  6. Repeat as above 2 more times

  7. Did you notice a difference side-to-side?

  8. Stand with your arms at your sides.

  9. Raise your left arm straight up in front of your body, bringing it next to your head.

  10. Bring the arm down

  11. Repeat the same on the right side

  12. Repeat left then right 2 more times

  13. Did you notice a difference side-to-side?

  14. Sit perched on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor

  15. Bring your chin down slightly

  16. You will breathe in and out of only your nose-gently-no forcing

  17. Follow this rhythm

  18. Gently inhale for a count of 3

  19. Pause for a second

  20. Exhale for a count of 5

  21. Pause for a second

  22. Repeat the above sequence gently for 8 breaths

  1. Stand up slowly and retest your head and neck motion, following the instruction in 1 & 2.

  2. What did you notice about how far you can move? Did you see an improvement in the ease with which you could move?  Does moving feel easier or lighter?

If you noticed improvement in the quality and/or the range in which you could move how youo breathe may be contributing your neck and shoulder discomfort.

That leads us to the good new.

We can help you improve how you breathe and equally as important how to breathe better during activities and life.


Reach out today!

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