Do you suffer from shoulder tension regularly? Maybe you’ve tried getting massages or using fancy gadgets to find shoulder pain relief, but you haven’t been successful. Or maybe you fix the issue temporarily, only to find it creeping back in after a few days. If your shoulders are constantly knotted and tight, keep reading! I’ve got a technique that can help. Hint: You’re already doing this every day—you may just need to try doing it a bit differently.
Before we dive in on how to find shoulder pain relief, let’s talk about why your shoulders and neck are tight. The most common reason: stress. Stress is unavoidable in life, however we often don’t deal with it in a productive way. Instead, that stress gets stored in the body—most often in the neck and shoulders. Then more stress happens, we don’t process and deal with it, and it continues to build up with a vengeance. This is why you may feel great for a day or two after getting a massage, going on vacation, or soaking in the hot tub, but once you get back to life, that tension comes back.
Now, allow me to get nerdy with you for a second. I promise this will all make sense! When you’re in this constant cycle of stress, your body lives in fight or flight mode. This is thanks to your sympathetic nervous system, which is designed to prepare your body to escape threatening situations. It is a very necessary response. For example, if you’re getting chased by a bear or are about to be hit by a car, you want your body to be prepared to take action and get you to safety.
The problem arises when we live in this constant state of preparing to fight off a bear, yet there is no bear to fight. Our muscles are always engaged and ready to act, but there isn’t much for them to do. So how do you break this cycle?
Tap into the opposite part of the nervous system called the parasympathetic nervous system. This is known as rest and digest mode. It allows your body to rest, relax, and recover. The thing is, we don’t often get into this mode when we are always stressed.
Here’s where the easy part comes in. A very quick and effective way to leave fight or flight mode and enter rest and digest mode is through breathing! You do it every day, so let’s optimize how you breathe. That way you can allow your body to recover and release that annoying shoulder and neck tension. This technique of breathing is called diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing.
How to perform:
- Sit or lay down in a comfortable position.
- Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach.
- Your hand on your stomach should move up and down as you inhale and exhale, while the hand on your chest stays relatively still.
- While belly breathing, inhale to a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, and exhale for a count of 6. Really focus on the exhale because this is what shifts you into rest and digest mode. Feel the tension in your neck and shoulders melt away.
Once you get good at this, you’ll be able to breathe this way all the time. In a stressful work meeting? Belly breathe. Kids fighting and throwing tantrums? Belly breathe. Feel yourself tensing up during a tough phone call? Belly breathe.
I know it sounds simple but this trick will make a huge difference in helping you find shoulder pain relief and mental wellbeing. Want to learn more? Get my free Control Your Breath, Control Your Body guide here.