One Nerve Glide for Neck and Shoulder Tension
If you haven’t noticed over the last year of the pandemic, lots of people have been doing a lot of work on screens and one of the most common complaints that we’ve heard over the last 16 months, or so, has been “my neck and shoulders are killing me! I’m so tight. I spend all day. I’m watching Zoom, I’m watching Z-Health classes, online!”
Whatever it is that you’re doing, we know that the neck and shoulders carry a ton of tension. And there are obviously lots of different things that we want to take into account when we’re dealing with neck tension and shoulder tension.
One of the things that we often focus on is making sure that your eyes are getting breaks throughout the day and getting some relaxation. But what I want to show you today is a really simple nerve flossing technique, or what we call a neuromechanic technique, specifically working on a nerve called the accessory nerve. Now, the accessory nerve is cranial nerve 11, meaning it comes out of the brain, and then it goes down and it feeds our trapezius muscles and also the sternocleidomastoid. So it is very possible, mouse hand over here if you’re right-handed, lots of keyboard time, depending on what you’re doing through the day, it’s possible to wind up with a lot of tension on one side or a lot of tension on the other.
So this is a really simple technique that you can test to see if it provides you some rest and relaxation, particularly for those tight shoulders and neck.
Here’s how the movement is performed. You’re going to begin in a nice tall stance. You can also do this seated. Our point of focus is going to be our shoulder blade. So I’m going to work on my right side.
Step one, I’m going to pull my right shoulder blade back. So I’m going to retract and then I’m going to do a slight depression. Meaning, I’m pulling my shoulder blade down. So step one, pull the shoulder blade back.
Step two, pull the shoulder blade down. Hold that.
Next, lengthen the neck. Tilt away.
Now, from here, we want to do a chicken-like movement.
So, I’m going to drive from the lower cervical spine, I’m going to drive my chin forward.
Once I’ve done that, I’m going to begin to feel some tension building up in that trap. Once I’m there, I’m then going to add a little bit of neck flexion and this is now going to be kind of the flossing movement. Just like I’m flossing my teeth. I’m flossing that nerve.
This is an interesting nerve in that you are not going to get a lot of typical buzzing and tingling sensation like you would in some of the other nerve drills that we teach. It’s going to feel like a very intense and relatively strange stretch. Most people will talk about feeling it in the upper trapezius, and some people will feel it in the SCM.
I want to make sure as you do this that you’re going very slowly and keeping the tension really low. Even though I said it’s an intense stretch I would like for you to imagine doing this at a 3 out of 10 level and no more.
All right, so let’s go through it one more time. We begin, nice and tall. We pull the shoulder blade back, pull the shoulder blade down, tilt the head away, do a chicken movement forward. Now, we’ve got some tension building up and now we’re going to flex the neck forward. So, moving the chin toward the chest and just come up and down out of that. Normally three to five times. And if you want, you can now hold the tension with the chin down, pull the shoulder blade up to take the tension off, back down to put the tension on.
So again, we can use any of the movements that compose the whole exercise as a flossing tool. I recommend again that you keep the tension low, do only three to five repetitions, and then come up and relax. Re-check your ranges of motion. Check your tension levels, and if you feel like you need to, do it on the opposite side, repeat that. Normally we get our clients to do this, three to five times a day.
As you’re working on the computer, maybe you can schedule it when you take your vision breaks also give your upper neck and shoulders a little bit of a break by adding in this accessory nerve glide.