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Essential Neck and Upper Body Stretches

You may be accessing this blog post through your phone or your laptop right now. But let me ask you this, how's your posture? If you're on your phone, chances are you're hunched over trying to read the tiny letters on the screen. You're slouched, looking down, and depending on how long you've been sitting like this, your neck is probably starting to hurt. If you're reading this from your laptop or desktop, your shoulders are probably up to your ears right now, as you've probably been sitting at the desk for far too long. If you're a righty, then you can most likely feel tension in that right upper shoulder and neck area because that's your mouse hand.

Since our species has evolved and most of our jobs have switched from hard, manual labor to time-intensive sedentary work, we've not only become less active, but our muscular and structural systems are paying the price. We sit for hours on end, hunched over our laptops, trying to meet the deadline or please a digital customer. Our stress levels have increased and our activity has decreased, which leads to higher cortisol levels, tension throughout the body, and general fatigue and chronic conditions.

Sitting for such long periods of time leads to significant decreases in range of motion and flexibility, and without proper stretching and strengthening, you're going to end up as a hunchback! Just kidding...kind of.

As we age, our bodies naturally shrink. Your spine compresses, making you shorter with each passing year. Lack of physical activity, improper care, malnutrition, and stretching only worsens this condition. We live in a very protracted society, meaning that everything we do is in front of us. We're driving, working on our computers, playing football, picking up our kids, and assembling and disassembling things - all of which are directly in front of us. Because of this, our back tends to be over-lengthened, and our front contracted, or shortened.

The following video is a great resource for you to follow in between sessions to help keep your neck and upper body stretched out, and to increase flexibility and range of motion. As always, work within your comfort zone, levels, and abilities. If you've had any rotator cuff surgery, some of your movements might be very limited, and that's okay. The goal is to consistently stretch, and over a period of weeks and months, increase your flexibility and range of motion.

This next video goes over stretching the pecs. You have two pectoral muscles, the pec major (the larger of the two) and the pec minor. This video is a little language intensive - meaning that for those of you without any knowledge of anatomy or kinesiology, it might not make total sense, but that's okay! Just do what they suggest and you'll find that with time, you'll increase your range of motion and flexibility.

In general, try to fit in at least 15 minutes of stretching every day to help combat tightness and decreased flexibility. Good luck!

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