The post Breasts Causing Upper Back Pain is a Myth explained that a tilted-forward position of the head and neck, called a forward head, is not the normal tilt to the neck. It is an avoidable slouch that causes much upper back, neck, and shoulder pain, and pressures the discs of the upper spine.
Do you have a forward head? Here is a test, called The Wall Test:
If you can't put your back against a wall and comfortably touch the back of your head to the wall too without overarching your back or raising your chin, that usually indicates that the muscles in front of your chest are so tight that they restrict normal standing. The resulting bent-forward position of your neck creates large forces on the muscles and joints of your upper spine as it strains to hold the weight of your head forward of the supporting spine instead of above it.
Being too tight to stand and sit upright instead of slouching forward is common, even among people who stretch regularly. The reason is that they usually practice stretching forward, rarely stretching the front muscles by stretching back. In turn, holding your body bent forward instead of upright perpetuates tightness.
To lengthen the front chest (pectoral) area needed to stop the slouching-tightness cycle, use the photo above left for reference and try this:
- Use the photo above as a guide. Stand facing a wall. Bend one elbow out to the side and put the inside surface of that arm against the wall, as in the left-hand photo.
- Turn your whole body and feet away from the wall, letting the wall brace your bent arm behind you, as in the right-hand photo.
- If you are doing this stretch right, you will feel a nice stretch in the front of your chest.
- Keep your shoulders down and relaxed. Breathe. Smile.
- Hold a few seconds, breathe in, change arms, and breathe out while stretching the other side for a few seconds.
- Now drop both arms and turn to stand with your back against the wall again. If you did this pectoral stretch right, standing straight with the back of your head touching the wall should now feel more natural and comfortable and no longer a strain.
- When you walk away from the wall don't slouch forward again out of habit. Hold the easy new healthy positioning for everything you do.
Remember that the wall test (checking if you are straight against a wall) is a test - it is not an exercise that fixes anything, it tells if you are doing the pectoral stretch and two more stretches to correctly restore anterior muscle resting length. This pectoral stretch is one of three techniques to stop upper body tightness that prevents standing and moving in healthy ways.
Three stretches together help more. After doing this pectoral stretch and seeing the results with the Wall Test, add the next two stretches to restore resting length to be able to stand comfortably:
2. Nice Neck Stretch - trapezius stretch
3. Friday Fast Fitness - Better Shoulder and Triceps Stretch
After each stretch, check yourself again with the wall test to see if you did them in the way intended - to work. Then, remember that head and body position is voluntary. Hold your head up and shoulders back softly all the time. The stretches just make it possible YOU are the one to hold it there and retrain your body. No adjustments or bracing does that.
Do the pectoral stretch first thing every morning and several times every day to learn healthy positioning. Then check yourself with the wall test to see if you did it in a way that worked. Use this pectoral stretch and the two other stretches (nice trapezius stretch and better triceps stretch) instead of the stretch where you stand in a doorway or corner to stretch both arms at once, and instead of pulling your straight arm(s) behind you - what I call, The Stretch You Need The Least.
The three stretches will stop pain for the short term. In fact, if you don't feel improved right away, you're doing them wrong. Then for the fix, use them to allow you to hold healthy upright positioning. By not letting your head hang forward all day, you will no longer need constant pills, adjustments, or treatments for pain. You will stop the cause.
If You Have Questions:
- Photo and details and complete sequence of restoring healthy body position, in the book Fix Your Own Pain Without Drugs or Surgery - What to do to fix many sources of pain and injury, step-by-step.
- Post to get the purpose of this pectoral stretch - Pectoral (Chest) Stretch - The Most Common Mistake in the Best Shoulder Stretch
- How Doctors Use The Wall Stand Test
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