Here’s Exactly What I’m Doing To Banish Upper Body Tension & Pain
Hey there, friends! So, let’s chat – about upper body tension. You know, neck pain, upper back pain, headaches, tooth grinding – all that nasty stuff.
Today I want to talk about the exact program that I’m using to help my body recover from all that ickiness. See, I recently found out that I had a tongue tie. It was probably the main reason that my whole upper body has been tight, sore and painful for years. I got it released last Thursday (yay! *happydance*), and now I’m stretching and moving my upper body as much as possible to help banish all that tension forever!!
I think that the exact same strategies I’m using to restore my upper body will also be amazing for YOU, especially if you’re experiencing any upper body issues. So here’s the deal.
For me, upper body tension has been a fact of life for as long as I can remember. Even all my alignment work hasn’t cleared it up. Turns out I had a surprise in store for me. When I went to a new dentist for a jaw consult, I learned I had a tongue-tie, which was probably a major contributor to all my issues.
You can read all about my tongue-tie discovery here: Do You Grind Your Teeth At Night? Maybe Your Tongue Is The Problem.
When I got my tongue-tie released, I instantly noticed a major transformation in how my upper body works. My head is now able to slide back over my neck – where it really belongs – without any strain or tension. Pretty crazy, hey? This should help a LOT with my upper body stuff!
Post-tongue tie release, my exercise regime includes a lot of funny stuff. I have to stretch my tongue a lot to help it heal, and I’ll be doing work to help retrain my swallowing patterns once things have healed a bit more.
But I’m also spending a lot of time focusing on the big picture. After all, so many modern movement habits create head and neck tension – a tongue-tie alone isn’t the whole story. And I want my body to work as well as possible.
So today, I’m sharing some of the KEY STRATEGIES I’m using to help decrease the main causes of upper body tension. And, for you to keep, a copy of the exact same exercises I’m using right now to help my body get realigned and lose the tension.
Spending time in front of screens and keyboards creates major upper body tension!
If you spend lots of time in front of screens (who doesn’t these days!?), there are 3 main fixes you should know about.
Slide your chin back
First, you’re most likely jutting your chin forward to look at the screen. This compresses and tightens the back of your neck and is no bueno!
Fortunately, the answer to this is easy – you need to start keeping your chin tucked in and the back of your head slid back. Here’s how. Put a sticky note on your screen to remind you!
Spend more time with your arms in the air
Second, you’re probably holding your arms in front of your chest a lot. Your body will respond to this by shortening your chest muscles, which creates lots of tension and tightness.
Since keyboards are kind of unavoidable, the trick here is to make sure that you ALSO spend some time with your hands in other positions. You can do this in your exercise time, but you can also use your arms creatively throughout the day. When you take a movement break (you ARE taking breaks every 20-30 minutes, right?!), use that time to reach up, out and around with your arms. It doesn’t have to be fancy!
Look at stuff that’s far away
And third, your eyes probably spend a lot of their time focusing on the screen. Your tiny eye muscles have to tighten to allow you to see at close ranges and then, BOOM!, you have eye tension too.
Relaxing your eyes is another thing you can do on your movement break – triple tasking! It’s really easy. You just have to look at something that’s more than 30 feet away. Try focusing on a tree outside your window, or if you’re going for a walk, lift your eyes and look at things far away down the street.
Wearing shoes with heels and sitting in chairs creates major neck tension.
Although shoes and chairs have a direct impact on our lower body, they actually have a serious upper body impact too.
Because heels and sitting lead to short, tight muscles in your legs, they change your walking pattern so that you end up having to throw your upper body forward each time you take a step. This actually creates a kind of ‘mini-whiplash’ effect that causes loads of tension in the upper body and shoulders.
Not spending time outdoors and not using our arms for very much.
What your body doesn’t do is just as important as what it does do. Spending time outdoors in nature is super relaxing, and allows your body to move in ways that counteract all that tension. It’s easy to look long distances when you’re hiking! It’s also easy to use your arms to scramble around on trees and rocks. Even if you live in a big city like me, take the time to find a park or a nearby hiking trail you can get to on the regular. It’ll do wonders for your upper body tension – and your soul!
So if you do all of the above, you should start to notice some major differences in how your upper body feels! And the best part? All of these things have multiple benefits – they do good for your upper body, but also for your bones and your joints and your lower back and everything else!
But that said, there’s a lot of other stuff you can do, so I’ve put together a little gift for you with all the exact exercise program that I’m using to help my body recover from my tongue tie. It’ll be great for anyone who experiences tension, tightness or soreness in their upper body. If that’s you, then enjoy! You can download it right here!
Got questions about tongue-ties, upper body tension, or how to live better in your body? Want to share a strategy that’s been working for you? Leave a comment below and let me know what’s up!
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Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body - and she's always happy to chat about it. She's on the road right now, travelling the world and moving in as many ways as possible. When she's not out exploring or working on her movement practice, you can probably find her hanging on some monkey bars.