Episode 213: Relieving Neck Pain and Stiffness

Today we’re going to be talking about ribs, necks and shoulders.

In the last couple of months we’ve been doing lots of blogs on spinal issues and different mobility issues that you find related to neck pain and back pain, both for the mid back and low back. I’ve gotten some questions about some other drills, or other areas, and sometimes people complain chronically of pain in this upper trap area.

A few videos ago we talked about a couple different neuro mechanic drills for that, as well as some other mobilizations, but specifically what I want to talk about today is the first rib. Your first rib is the first rib. It’s high up here and very often we find mobility issues there. It can contribute to neck stiffness, neck pain, kind of this deep, achy, irritation here, and often decreased shoulder mobility and sometimes even pain and issues down into the arm.

I’m going to show you a quick little way to mobilize it.

We’re going to do two different exercises. The goal here is actually to relax and breathe. One of the things that we’ll focus on within these mobilizations is to make sure that you’re taking a really deep breath in and really deep breath out because in part your first rib is involved in respiration when we’re really taking a deep breath in trying to engage the top of the lungs, so it attaches to these things called your scaling muscles, et cetera.

Whole point, you need to take a deep breath when we’re doing the mobilization.

Let’s imagine that I’m having problems with my left side. What I would recommend is you choose a side where you feel the discomfort on, check your shoulder range of motion, maybe check your abduction, flexion, intro rotation, see how comfortable that is, try some different head and neck movement, see how comfortable that is because you want to actually look at your movement after the mobilization to see if it was effective for you.

What I’m going to do is I’m going to use this little cool belt. You don’t have to have a cool belt in order to do this. You can use a regular old belt that you would wear in your pants or just a really rigid towel, so a beach towel that you can roll up. The main thing that we want to think about with this particular exercise is that we do not want to use a stretch band because we really want to have some stiffer resistance.

What we’re going to do is we’re going to clip the band around the problematic side and we’re going to make sure that we have it across the body like we put a seat belt on. Usually what I’ll have people do if it’s over my left shoulder, you grab the strap in front with your right hand and reach behind you with your left hand if you have the mobility to grab the strap in back. If that’s too much of a problem you can actually just do it with one hand. You just have to decide on what’s comfortable for you.

I’m going to do the two handed version here. The basic idea is I want to create a downward pull but on this angle. I’m pulling my shoulder toward my opposite hip getting some pressure. Again, we want to basically be at the base of the neck where it meets the shoulder in terms of where I want to feel the most pressure. I’m going to pull down.

Once I’ve done that my motion is going to be tilting to that side, rotating to that side, taking a deep breath in and then as I exhale increasing the traction, increasing the pull. Return up, so again, tilt to that side, rotate to that side, deep breath in, pull, on the exhale. I’m going to stay in this position this time. Again, breathe deep breath, full exhale increasing the pull.

Normally you want to come out of this nice and gently. I’ll have people do that five to 10 times. Now once you’ve done that you want to reassess. Go ahead and recheck your shoulder, see if that decreases any discomforts that you were having, see how your neck range of motion is, et cetera. If that one works well for you, great.

There is a possibility that that one might not hit the spot for you. What we’re going to do now is transition to using one of our jump stretch bands. We’re going to put it on like a bandolier. Once again we’re working on my left side, so I’m going to place the band very, very high between basically where my neck and shoulder meet and grab the band and step on it with my opposite foot.

I now have this kind of now retraction that’s occurring, again, using the jump stretch band. Because this has some give to it we’re going to have to use a little bit more body motion. What we’re going to do now is we’re going to actually reverse the head movement that we were doing. We’ll take a deep breath in first, all way in, we’ll rotate away until toward that rib side. At this point we’re going to pull the should blade down a little bit and then come out.

We’ll do that again, deep breath in, rotate away tilt toward that side, hold the shoulder blade down. You can either do that actively by depressing your scapula or to target the first rib a little bit more you can pull down with your hand. That one looks like this, deep breath in, rotate away, tilt back towards, exhale, and traction down on the band.

These are two very, very easy ways that you can start to work on mobilizing that first rib. Like I said, in general, what you want to make sure that you’re doing is reassessing after each exercise to see if it gives you some additional freedom of movement.

Again, I normally think about this area, anytime people are complaining about lower neck pain, upper back pain, shoulder discomfort or pain that’s kind of deep, achy and then sometimes radiates down into the arm. Obviously if you have any of those things and you haven’t been seen by a healthcare professional, should get that stuff checked out first. These are two simple ways to start to play with this at home to see if you can find some relief.

If you have any questions about this please let us know, otherwise good luck.

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