Monday, July 26, 2010

Upper Body Monday

Do you ever have lingering pain in your upper back? Lower neck? Feels like it could be right between the shoulder blades? It was the most common problem people had when I was doing my clinic shifts at massage therapy school. Basically, it all stems from the fact that we have a front and a back. Everything we do is directed towards the front: where our face is, where our hands can grasp. Of course, the problem is exacerbated by the one thing that the average person has done much, much more of over the past 15 years: work on a computer.

When you're working on something before you for a long period of time, seated, with your arms resting, your body will start to hunch forward. Your head will drop, your shoulders will curve around to the front, and may even end up somewhere around your ears. This is because the pectoralis major, a huge (and sexy!) muscle on the front of your chest [see above], is balanced by the rhomboids major and minor, two small (still sexy!) muscles in the back [see below]. Of course there are many more muscles involved in the stability and motion of your upper body, but these are the two major culprits.
See the difference in size? As the pectorals pull the shoulders around forward, the rhomboids are straining to pull them back. The pain you feel could be an overstretched rhomboid, simply unable to keep up with the load. What's a body to do? Two things: 1) strengthen the rhomboids and 2) stretch the pectorals. [Hmm...obviously I need to spend more time scoping out the articles at Looks like the could have some good stuff there.] Stretch your pectorals every day!

As for my workouts, since all my focus has been on the lower body (running, biking) lately, it's definitely time for me to become more well-rounded (in more ways that one! Hah!) So this evening I did some upper-body exercises with free weights, sometimes resting on my stability ball both for a core strengthening bonus and to have enough free space around my body for certain exercises. Of course, I did a sequence of shoulder squeezes for my rhomboids, and took a minute when I was finished to stretch my pectorals. :)

Food has been an issue for me lately. I'm in one of those phases where I just don't care about cooking, so I haven't been making fabulous food for myself. Still, my focus is on finding vegetables wherever I can. I still love 'em, I just don't feel like chopping & cooking them. I'm hoping I'll get out of this funk soon and get back up on the super-healthy eating wagon.

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