Easing Upper Body Tension

Posted May 23 2011, 3:00 am

As writers, we spend an inordinate amount of time sitting at our computers. Taking into account edits, revisions, pressure from your day job, issues with your spouse and/or family as well as a host of other stress factors, and I bet you sometimes suffer from tight neck and upper body muscles. (Sometimes??)

For me, the tension starts on my left; halfway between my neck and my shoulder – in that meaty part of the upper trapezius muscle. It feels kinda like a small electrical shock, localized in one spot. If I ignore it (or should I say when I ignore it) the tension builds and soon travels up the left side of my neck. I can try rubbing it between spurts of typing, but it’s usually too late by that point. It’s just a matter of time before I’m forced to leave my computer to try and get those darn muscles to relax. Had I taken just a few minutes at the first sign of tension to stretch, I wouldn’t lose so much writing time. (That’s my story and I’m sticking with it. LOL)

So learn from me and do as I say, not as I do.  Here are a couple of my fave upper back and neck stretches.  

One, sit or stand tall and visualize a string from the top of your head to the ceiling. While keeping your chin parallel to the floor (sorta), close your eyes and tip your head to the side. Think about touching your ear to your shoulder and feel the stretch along neck. Repeat on the other side. Remember to keep your chin up and not let it tuck toward your chest. This is a great stretch for when you need quickie relief at your desk.

Two, stand with your back to a solid wall, making sure your heels, butt and shoulder blades are in contact with the surface. Raise your arms to the side and bend at the elbows like a scarecrow. Keeping your wrists in line with your elbows, press your arms to the wall until the backs of your hands make contact. Hold for a count of ten to twenty, breathing in through your nose and out your mouth. This one works best for me and my particular brand of upper back tension.

Three, get down on all fours with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. Take your right hand and thread it under your left arm until your right ear is on or very near the floor. Close your eyes and breathe, but try not to fall asleep. (LOL) Slowly come up to the starting position and repeat on the other side. This stretch is great to do right before bed.

Finally, stand tall and grasp a dish towel in both hands. Keeping your hands shoulder width apart – and the towel tight between your hands – slowly raise your arms up and over your head. You should feel a glorious stretch in your upper back and shoulders. This is another good one to do before going to bed to work those kinks out. Repeat several times, breathing deeply.

So now you know a few of my choice stretches for relieving tension. Do you have a favorite? Please share.

Enjoy your tension free week!




8 responses to “Easing Upper Body Tension”

  1. Donnell says:

    Lynda…. stay off the computer 😉 KIDDING!! Seriously, I’m going through this now, and every hour, yeah… I’m NOT kidding there. Stand up, hold your arms overhead and twine your fingers. Stretch to your right and left, holding each position for twenty or so seconds. Extend your arms out, twine them, and do the same for another twenty seconds.

    Occasionally, not necessarily every hour — more like four get on your hands and knees and arch your back, and then slide down in a cat-like move to stretch your lower back.

    I’ve had great results with these exercises. While doing revision we tend to be stressed and stiff anyway, these really help! Great blog!

    • lynda says:

      Step away from the computer and no one gets hurt! Ha!
      Your first stretch is a marvy one that I hadn’t used in years. Thanks for the reminder! Your second, though, is a no-go for me. I have a bulging #4 lumbar vertebrae so the cat stretch really aggravates it.
      Thanks for popping in and sharing your tips.
      Love ya!

  2. Robin Weaver says:

    Great stuff, Lynda. I knew about the first two, but the dishtowel gave a terrific stretch.

  3. Hi Lynda,
    I love, love, love stretching. It’s always my fave part of any workout. One of my simple favorites is simply clasping my hands behind my back and lifting them as high as I can.

    Another is to bend forward, bend my knees and place my palms on my thighs. Then twist slightly so one shoulder reaches for its opposite knee. Repeat on the other side.

    I always get tight from one bicep, across my upper back, and down the other bicep — these help with those areas. I also have to add, I’m one of the ones who could fall asleep during a good stretch. Can you see me yawning just thinking about it?

    Fun post as always.

  4. Linda White says:

    These are great additions to my usual yoga moves. Thanks for sharing! I can’t wait to try the one where the right ear nearly touches the floor. 🙂

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