Neck/shoulder injury: stretches to alleviate knots?
August 27, 2009 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Seeking online resources that show you, visually, how to stretch your muscles, particularly upper-back/shoulders/neck area, to alleviate a pinched nerve.

I injured myself bodysurfing--a wave slammed me hard into the sand, landing me on my shoulders and neck. Immediately after the accident, my right arm felt like I'd hit a funnybone, and my hand was stuck in a claw position. Very quickly, the numbness died down, and I had full range of motion back. (whoo, lucky! Thankfully I was not paralyzed. And then I went back in the water. I couldn't help myself.)

What didn't go away: I now have a lot of sensitivity in my right forearm, wrist, and all fingers but the index and thumb, on the posterior (hair-covered) side. I describe the feeling as, "my arm has a headache." It's also very temperature-sensitive.

I have seen my doctor about this, and he didn't seem too concerned--he supported my theory that it is a pinched nerve. He didn't prescribe muscle-relaxants or painkillers, or send me to a chiropractor, and he said that it should slowly heal within a month or two. He also didn't write me a referral to a physical therapist, which is why I write this AskMe. (The injury happened about a month ago. If the pain persists into mid-October, I will insist that he take a more vigorous tack.)

In the meantime, though, my neck and shoulders are sore a majority of the time, and I'd like to find some stretches to do to alleviate the knots that have set up camp there. (My poor posture is probably not helping, either.) Are there any web resources you've found that have helped you in similar situations with neck/shoulder pain? I prefer learning these things visually; it's easier for me to see things being done that to be told how to do them. I'm not in the market to take a yoga class, seek acupuncture, or other things, not yet. I just want to heat, cool, and lightly stretch the affected area.

posted by not_on_display to Health & Fitness (3 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Stretching may not be what you want. I'm a big fan of trigger point therapy -- this web site explains why stretching may be bad and how to do trigger point therapy on yourself. My favorite part of trigger point is it's a real can't hurt/could help proposition; all you're doing is rubbing across the muscle fibers.
posted by katemonster at 3:27 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have very similar pains in my shoulder/arm and tingling in my fingers. The best thing I've found for it is 1) keeping those muscles strong with weights and 2) kundalini yoga. It's a very cardio intensive with lots of twisting and movement. I personally use this video (the instructor is awesome). The first time I watched/participated in it, there were several movements that made me wide-eyed at how great they felt and how they relieved pressure and tension in places that I had NEVER found relief for in my shoulders.

It's quite a strenuous workout, but just picking up a few movements to work into your daily stretch routine is worth the cheap price alone. I believe it has a lot to do with the build-up, though, so sometimes reaching some of those muscles/nerves requires the muscles AROUND them to be loosened up first.

Good luck.
posted by Espoo2 at 5:19 PM on August 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I posted something about it recently:
Including a few stretches. My favorite is the hitchhicker:
Stand with perfect posture (SBD) with hand placed on your thighs and your thumbs pointed upward. While gliding your shoulder blades back and down toward your waist raise your arms up at a 45 degree angle. Raise your arms to shoulder height only and keep your elbows straight. Hold this position for 2 seconds and slowly return to the starting position. Begin this exercise with no resistance and gradually progress to 1-5lb dumbbells. Do not use weights heavier than 5lb. The smaller muscles of the rotator cuff are difficult to isolate using heavy weight.
I just reach an arm out like I'm hitchhiking then continue that movement until I reach a stretch. Repeat with other arm. Do both at once. Feels good, seems to line me up for a bit.

At work, "Work Rave" does a good job of reminding you to stretch and suggesting stretches.

Do the stretches your chiro recommends - they usually do more than the "adjustments" themselves.

If that's not enough a good physical therapist would be a great next step.

Best luck!
posted by unclezeb at 8:26 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

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