Updated: Feb 22
Neck and shoulder tension feels like it’s an inevitable part of life these days. Whether it’s using our computers or phones, driving or biking, or even doing the dishes, so much of modern life has placed us in an unnatural rounded forward position. These activities shorten and tighten the front of the body while overly elongating the back of the body which causes the head to pitch forward. This is significant because our heads weigh approximately 11 pounds when upright, but for every inch you tilt your head down, your head doubles in weight. This means that even just a one-inch tilt makes your head weight 22 pounds. Now do you see why your neck hurts?
In addition to our modern activities, there are other factors that increase neck and shoulder tension, such as repetitive movements, poor sleeping position and of course stress. As we know, stress creates tension, and tension creates stress. As highly sensitive people who are more sensitive to stress, we want to do all we can to make sure we support our bodies and give ourselves the best chance to feel well. Learning to release neck and shoulder tension is one way to help us thrive as HSPs.
7 Suggestions for Tight Neck and Shoulders:
1) Practice yoga
I also recommend back bending practices to help open the front of the body that gets tighter and tense from rounding forward. Think of taking a back bending pose daily as a “counter pose to modern life”. One of my favorites is laying over a blanket with a block under your head. See below:
2) See a chiropractor
A chiropractor is the best person to go to for the health of your spine, which includes your cervical spine, aka your neck! Seeing a chiropractor with some regularity can make a lasting impact on the amount of tension your body is carrying. I always feel great after seeing my chiropractor.
My chiropractor recommends the “chin tuck” to help you realign your head over your spine and reduce forward head posture.
Seated or standing tall, align your chin parallel to the ground. Keeping your chin parallel, press your chin backward like you are trying to create a double chin, and hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 reps, 3 times a day. Many refer to this as the “stoplight exercise” as it can be good to practice while sitting at a stop light.
3) Set up your tech as ergonomically as possible
As a practice, I recommend being intentional with your technology set up every time you sit down to use your computer and as often as you can when using your phone. Most importantly, you want to make sure you are sitting or standing tall and looking straight ahead, not up or down or with your head turned to the side. Remember, any amount of downward tilt will dramatically increase the pressure on your spine and turning your head even slightly if repeated often can create tension and pain. If seated, have your feet flat on the floor and a pillow behind your low back to support your lumbar curve. Make sure your mouse and keyboard are in comfortable, relaxed positions as reaching for those immediately tenses your neck and shoulders.
4) Practice massage
I am a huge proponent of massage to release tension and improve posture. While getting a professional massage is a fantastic way to take care of your sensitive neck and shoulders, it is often not affordable or available. I use my Gua Sha daily for my neck and shoulders. Asking for a quick massage from a loved one is also highly beneficial. Even just a few minutes a day can make a difference, but if we don’t actively massage or stretch these areas, they will not loosen on their own.
For more self-massage, check out my recent gentle yoga class: Release Tension with Self-massage.
5) Take lots of breaks
This one is important for HSP’s for so many reasons. As sensitive people we need more rest than most, and taking breaks has the additional benefit of helping with our tight neck and shoulders. As HSPs with sensitive nervous systems, we want to release stress in any and all ways. I like to break by taking a short walk, doing a shaking practice, doing some stretching or restorative yoga and resting on my acupressure mat. For HSPs, I recommended taking some sort of break at least every hour, but even more often is best.
Icing your neck and shoulders can have a profound effect at easing pain and reducing inflammation. I use this ice pack. I know that many prefer heat, but it is generally not recommended to heat your neck. While heat can feel good in the moment, it can increase the inflammatory effect and create more tension over time.
7) Be mindful and listen to your body
The best way to take care of yourself (and your neck and shoulders), is to be mindful of how you feel and adjust accordingly. We often override our bodies' messages because we want to continue with what we are doing or go along with what is expected of us, but this never serves us. As HSPs, we can only thrive when we trust ourselves first and prioritize our wellness.
To be mindful of your neck and shoulders, you want to make sure you aren’t doing too many repetitive movements. Avoid carrying too much on your back. If you have a heavy purse or shoulder bag, make sure to switch the side you hold it often. Avoid grabbing something in the back of the car from the front seat or turning your head for too long. If you are in an uncomfortable position, move as soon as you notice. If your body says not to do something, listen to your body’s messages with love.
Ready to practice and find relief in your neck and shoulders? Join me for my 45-minute Slow Flow to Relive Neck & Shoulder Tension. Join for FREE with my free class pass, or 7-day free membership trial!
With love and sensitivity,