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3 Upper Body Stretches to Alleviate Common Daily Pains

Woman doing a side neck stretch on a bench in the park.
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Sitting or standing for long periods during the day can cause you to develop neck, back, and other upper body pains, which can become chronic over time. Here are three body stretches to help alleviate them.

Before You Start

First things first: Set aside time to stretch. Working on increasing your body’s flexibility and mobility takes time and patience, so it’s better to skip a session than try to squeeze everything in 10 minutes.

Once you decide to start a stretching routine, you have to be aware of slow progress over time. Give yourself at least 20-30 minutes per session. Get in the right mindset and avoid any distractions that might cause you to tense up.

Secondly, be prepared, as stretching can be a bit uncomfortable at times. The goal is to alleviate common daily pains, but the journey to getting there might require some breathing through it. It’s completely normal and, with time, it will get easier.

However, stretching should never hurt. If you feel any sharp, shooting pain, go back to the more comfortable step, or avoid the stretch altogether before you find the root cause of it.

Last, but not least, implementing breathing techniques can help you get deeper into a stretch and allow your body to open up naturally.

Neck Rollout

Woman doing a neck stretch on a bench in a park.
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Stretching the muscles and tendons on and around your neck should be delicate because of all the nerve endings passing through. Therefore, it’s really important not to rush it.

Start by finding a comfortable seated position with your spine straight. You can sit cross-legged, extend your legs in front of you, or simply sit on a chair and scoot to the edge of your seat, feet firmly planted into the floor.

Place your right hand on the left side of your head, covering your ear. Place your left on the floor beside your left hip or grab the edge of your seat and use it as leverage to create resistance. Take a deep breath in and pull your head towards your right shoulder while pushing yourself away from the floor (or your seat) with your left hand, and then exhale.

Try not to pull too hard and avoid lifting the right shoulder up. You should feel an intense stretch on your left side, causing a slight tingling sensation down your shoulder and arm. Take five to 10 deep breaths and feel yourself getting deeper into the stretch with every following exhale.

On your last exhale, slowly bring yourself back to the center and repeat on the other side.

Once you’ve completed both sides and you’re back to neutral, interlace your fingers and place them on the back of your head. Inhale and slowly pull your chin towards your chest. Feel the stretch at the back of your neck and stay for five to 10 long breaths. On your last exhale, go back to neutral.

Now that you’ve completed these three exercises separately, it’s time to combine them. Start on one side and do one or two deep breaths. On the last exhale, bring both hands behind your head to pull it down. Stay there for one or two breaths, and then cross over to the other side.

You can go back and forth like this three to five times and really feel those muscles loosen up.

Shoulder Opening

Woman performing a shoulder stretch on a bench in the park.
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

Sitting in front of the computer, as well as driving for long periods, can cause your shoulders to close up, and your upper body to curl up. This puts a lot of unnecessary tension on your shoulders, as well as your neck, which can create known painful sensations.

Start by finding a comfortable seat, either on a chair or the floor. Interlace your fingers and stretch out your arms straight in front of you. Try to keep them level with your shoulders without going too high or dropping them down.

Focus on really dropping your shoulders down and away from your ears to maximize the stretch.

Take a big inhale and push your interlaced fingers as far away from yourself as you can. Imagine you’re pushing against a wall. Bring your chin toward your chest and feel the stretch all the way to the crown of your head. Stay here for five to 10 long, deep breaths, and then relax.

Bring your hands behind you and interlace them again, lifting them off your lower back just slightly. There’s no need to go any higher. Inhale and push into your palms, feeling the stretch on the front of your shoulders. You can keep your head straight or let it naturally fall back.

Stay here for five to 10 long breaths, and then relax to neutral.

Sitting Cat and Cow

Woman doing an upper body stretch on a bench in the park.
Karla Tafra / LifeSavvy

The infamous cat and cow yoga poses are two of the best stretching exercises you can do to really articulate your spine. In addition to being done on all fours, they can also be performed seated.

Start by placing your hands on your knees and focusing on keeping a straight spine. Push your shoulders down and away from your ears, and allow your neck to have enough space to stretch.

Take a big inhale, and then exhale and push your knees away from you, bringing your chin to your chest. This will cause your body to resemble a C shape and create some space between each vertebra.

After you exhale, remain in that position for a second, and then start your inhale by opening your front body, lifting your head, and passing the neutral spot by going into counterpose. Look up and behind you and keep going until your spine is resembling a mirror C shape. This minimizes the space between the vertebras as you bend as far as you can go.

After you inhale, remain in this position for a second, and then slowly exhale back to cow pose. Repeat this cycle five to 10 times very slowly before returning to the neutral position.

These easy stretches can not only help your body function better and faster, but they can also help loosen the muscles in your back and neck. Gradually, you’ll notice that any pain or soreness has disappeared.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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