HELP ME RHONDA: Pain in the neck? Learn to relax |

HELP ME RHONDA: Pain in the neck? Learn to relax

Rhonda Beckham
Special to the Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Ask any of my private clients or students to repeat the mantra they constantly hear from me and they will say, “relax your neck.” They probably hear it in their sleep.

Most people have their shoulders up around their ears. As normal as this may seem, it really isn’t normal.

Stress can cause it. So can working at a computer all day, bad posture, even working out at the gym the wrong way can induce this position.

This perpetual shoulder shrug, tense neck, tight jaw posture doesn’t have to be permanent. And you don’t want it to be constant because it can cause chronic muscle imbalance and pain that radiates down your back.

In Pilates we learn to put our neck and shoulders in perfect position in order to minimize the tension when doing core work.

While reminding you to relax your neck, it’s also important to strengthen the delicate muscles that support our heavy head.

During our ski conditioning class this last fall we began to work on this often neglected muscle group in order to reduce the risk of whiplash when downhill skiing.

Here are exercises you can do with your hands. In class we used soft 9-inch balls or Pilates flex rings against a wall.

Hold these positions for 5 seconds and repeat three times. It is important that you make these movements slow, controlled and easy. Use little resistance as always when starting a new exercise (especially in the first few weeks) or you may end up with a “pain in the neck.”

Press your palms against your forehead and push against each other, resisting motion. Keep chin level.

With this next cervical strengthening exercise place your hand against the side of your head. Try to bring to your ear to your shoulder, resisting the motion. Repeat this exercise on the other side.

Cup both hands against the back of your head. Attempt to push your head back, resisting the motion. Keep chin level.

Put your right hand against the right temple. Attempt to turn your chin to your right shoulder, resisting the motion. Repeat this on the left side. Keep chin level.

Now that you’ve strengthened, let’s do some neck stretches.

Let your head tilt forward as you press your chin in toward your chest. Remember to breathe and take some time to feel the back of your neck opening and stretching. Lift your head to return up to center and then slowly tilt your head back by lifting your chin. Inhale and gently bring your head back up to center.

Next, allow your head to stretch to the right side by lowering your right ear toward your right shoulder. Feel the wonderful stretch along the left side of your neck. Make some gentle little movements with your head before inhaling and slowly returning it back up to center. Repeat on the other side.

– Rhonda Beckham is owner of Help Me Rhonda Personal Fitness Training. She is a nationally certified personal trainer operating out of Sierra Athletic Club and a Pilates instructor at Emerald Bay Physical Therapy. She may be reached at (530) 208-6369, and

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