Reliable sources of muscle relief are handy to have to hand when muscle tension and discomfort arise after spending long hours sitting in the glare of computer screens or engaging in repetitive motions at work on a daily basis. Long periods of being either stationary or trapped in monotonous cycles of motion both come at the high price of neck and shoulder strain.
And it’s a common issue that can easily go unchecked, leading to prolonged discomfort, pain and tension headaches that affect your ability to work and enjoy life.
Fortunately, there are several really accessible exercises and tips that can help to alleviate this tension, with one of the most effective tools being the use of heat therapy. Whether you’re a desk worker or athlete, dealing with occasional tension or chronic pain, this latest blog explores the many different sources of relief you can use anytime, anywhere.
Five simple tricks for alleviating tension
Tip #1: Realign your posture
When pains and strains come knocking, correcting poor posture is the first point of call. Whether sitting or standing, it’s always good to be aware of your posture. When sitting, try to keep your back straight and your shoulders directly above your hips. If you’re standing, look to keep your shoulders relaxed, and try to distribute your weight evenly on both feet. When the stance is lopsided, or if you’re sitting and you’ve got your legs crossed, these two postures can uncomfortably tilt the hips and place pressure on the lower back.
Tip #2: Take breaks to shake it off
Don’t be shy of taking a break from time to time to break the mould. Muscle strain builds up when the body endures the same position for extended periods, which is why it’s best to take a few minutes break each hour from wherever you’re doing throughout the day. Move around and stretch, engaging those most dormant muscle groups and reawakening the brain with a few shoulder rolls, neck stretches and arm circles to release the tension - more on that later!
Tip #3: A soothing escape
Muscle tensions, including the likes of tension headaches, can really play on the mind, making them almost impossible to ignore. However, heat offers a valuable source of relief from this, as its application increases the blood flow and helps to reduce pain and relax the muscles in the process. A microwaveable Soothing Body Wrap is the best tool to do this and can alleviate pain in any affected area and can be applied several times throughout the day.
Tip #4: Match it with massage therapy
A fantastic addition to all these solutions has to be massage therapy, and working with a professional therapist throughout the week can help relieve those tight muscles causing all the discomfort, while also greatly improving circulation. However, this solution can be costly and not always available, which is why we fully suggest self-massage techniques, especially the use of a Massage Therapy Ball. These can be used easily to quickly target specific points of pain, and have a dynamic functionality that’s both effective and accessible to use.
Tip #5: Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques
It’s not just the physical strains that contribute to the discomfort and pain of tension, but also the feelings on the inside too which usually come in the form of stress and anxiety. However, the effects of mentally-imposed muscle tension can be easily treated by practising relaxation techniques as and when the need arises. We have created our own deep relaxation guide with easy-to-follow steps that are guaranteed to bring an end to both physical and mental suffering. You can find our guide here.
Exercise: the most powerful tool of all
As our second point above mentions, exercise and moments of movement are great ways to free the body from pain and tension. Although this approach might at first appear to be difficult to undertake due to the lack of mobility imposed by these types of conditions, the rewards for doing so will soon become clear, even with just a little bit of exercise.
In essence, this is because when exercise occurs, it encourages blood flow to the muscle tissues, which delivers much-needed oxygen and nutrients to the damaged areas. In addition to this, exercise also promotes the production of both endorphins and anti-inflammatory cytokines, which together act wonderfully as the body’s natural painkillers.
Of course, we always advocate for the most extensive exercise plans but also understand that when pain strikes, especially in the neck, shoulder and upper back region, the physical solution should be both fast and accessible for all.
With this in mind, here are three super-simple exercises you can do at any moment in the day to quickly relieve muscle tension:
Exercise #1: Shoulder rolls
Standing with your feet comfortably hip-width apart and your arms hanging loosely by your sides, raise both your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold this position for a few seconds before releasing; repeat 10 to 15 times.
Shoulder rolls are an easy way to open out the space between your shoulder blades, a place where lots of tension likes to build. This movement encourages new blood flow to all the muscle groups in the region and uses a ‘tension-then-release’ method to trigger muscle repair.
Exercise #2: Cervical stretches
The term ‘cervical’ is a fancy name for the neck area of the spine; an area that’s all too familiar with the uncomfortable feeling of muscle tension. For this movement, you can either sit or stand, whatever’s most comfortable for you at the time.
When you’re ready, tilt your head first to your left, bringing your ear to meet your shoulder this time. Hold this position for a few seconds, before rolling your head around so that your other ear meets your other shoulder. Hold this position for a few seconds, before rolling your head full circle so that your left ear meets your left shoulder again. This movement is particularly good at tapping into a special pair of muscles called the trapezius muscles, which carry a lot of tension themselves and extend down from the base of the skull to all areas of the shoulders.
Exercise #3: Chest opener
All you’ll require for this third and final handy technique is a sturdy wall to lean against. When you’re feeling ready, stand facing said fall with your feet hip-width apart. Next, place both hands on the wall at about shoulder height. Then lean forward until you begin to feel a wide stretch across your chest and shoulders. Try to deepen your stretch with each passing breath, and only go as far down as you’re comfortable with.
The perfect way to alleviate all kinds of tension in the chest, shoulders, and upper back is through this type of exercise. It is highly recommended for those who spend extended periods of time seated. The chest opener movement can counteract the effects of poor posture and promote better alignment; two key elements in combating muscle pains.
To conclude, muscle tension and muscle discomfort are common problems for the vast majority of people at any age. By equipping yourself with the right exercises and techniques, you can make these tensions and sores far more manageable.
For a wider look into the most effective forms of physical rehabilitation, self-love and mindfulness, visit the full SMUG site here.