Yoga To Relieve Pain In Between The Shoulder Blades - Monthly Yoga with Abi

Mar 15, 2016
by Abi Carver  
Pain Between The Shoulder Blades

Do you suffer from pain in between your shoulder blades and tightness in your upper back, neck and shoulders? Hours on the bike with your arms permanently extended in front of you, combined with working at a desk and life stress, creates the perfect storm for soreness in the upper back, neck and shoulders. And it's nowhere near as much fun riding when you're in constant pain.

What causes the pain?

Upper back pain is caused by poor posture, where overworked muscles tighten up and shorten and the opposing muscles lengthen and become weak.

When the upper back and shoulders are chronically hunched forward, the shoulder blades start to slide away from the spine. This over-stretches and weakens the muscles that connect the spine to the shoulder blades, upper back (rhomboids and traps), neck (levator scapulae) and shoulders (deltoids). Muscles spasm from the fatigued muscles cause pain along the edges of the shoulder blades and up the neck. 

How can you fix it?

Counter-intuitively, stretching out the upper back will only temporarily ease the pain and can sometimes make things worse. You need to focus on releasing tension in the front of the body as rounding the upper back leads to tightness in the chest, which pulls the shoulders forward. Essentially, you need to reverse the hunched over position – stretching the chest and the front of the shoulders and strengthening the muscles of the upper back and neck – to restore your shoulders to a healthy and stable position. 

Three poses to open up your chest

- Warm up your body for five minutes with dynamic stretches and mobility exercises before you do the poses.
- Practice each pose twice, three or four times a week.
- Take it super slow and pay close attention to how the pose feels.
- Back off if you feel anything more than mild discomfort.
- Be patient and consistent – I hope you experience some level of relief immediately but it may take a couple of weeks before the pain goes away entirely.

1. Snake

Snake Pose

Instructions:

- Lie face down on the mat with your feet hip-width apart and your arms resting by your sides, palms facing up.
- Interlace your hands behind your back and press the tops of your feet into the mat.
- Inhale, lift your chest. Exhale, draw your shoulders back.
- Look down at the mat and be careful not to compress the back of your neck. Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths, in and out through your nose. Keep pressing your feet into the mat.
- To come out of the pose, unclasp your hands, rest your right cheek on the mat and rock your hips from side to side to release your lower back.

2. Bridge

Bridge Pose

Instructions:

- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat, hip-width apart. Check that your toes point straight ahead. Rest your arms by your sides, palms face down. Walk your feet back until your fingertips graze your heels. 
- Press into your feet and lift your hips all the way up. Check that your knees point straight ahead and do not fall out to the sides or in towards each other. Roll your shoulder blades underneath you. Come up to your edge and hold the pose for - 5-10 deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
- To come out of the pose, take a deep breath in, and lower down to the mat on an exhalation.
- Bring one hand to your belly and one hand to your chest. Walk your feet to the edges of the mat and drop both knees slowly to the right and to the left. Windscreen wiping your knees a few times to release your lower back.

3. Upward Facing Plank

Upward Facing Plank

Instructions:

- Sit on the mat with your legs straight out in front of you.
- Slide your hands 6-12 inches behind you. Try to point your fingertips forward. Lift your hips all the way up.
- Tuck your chin to your chest or look up at the ceiling without letting your head drop right back. 
- Keep pressing into your palms and be careful not to let your hips drop.
- Stay in the pose for 5-10 deep breaths, in and out through your nose. 
- Come down carefully on your last exhalation. 

Lack of flexibility in the shoulders

As well as pain, you may experience tightness in the shoulders, especially if you have sustained an injury to the shoulders and/or collarbones. This 15-minute routine of gentle stretches is designed to increase flexibility and range of motion in the neck, shoulders and upper back. The short breathing exercise at the beginning and the body scan meditation at the end will also help to relax the entire musculature supporting the rib cage.

Views: 11,916    Faves: 154    Comments: 18


Practice this routine as often as you need to and combine it with foam rolling and massage – both of the chest/collarbone area and the upper back and shoulders – for the best results. You can download the full Neck And Shoulders video here and my brand new Pose Guide For Mountain Bikers: Level One here.

Please let me know how you get on in the comments below. And if you need more motivation and tips to relieve pain and level up your performance, follow me on Instagram @yoga15abi.



Previous Yoga with Abi:

15-Minute Yoga Routine To Build Core Strength
Short Yoga Routine To Help With Lower Back Pain in Bikers
15-Minute Yoga Routine To Enhance Balance and Agilityl
15-Minute Post-Ride Yoga Routine
8 Quick Yoga Stretches To Do At Work
15-Minute Routine To Unlock Tight Hips


MENTIONS: @yoga15app


153 Comments

  • + 67
 This poise with the hands behind the back is good when you come back home with some new bike stuff. That she just didn't notice...
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  • + 17
 So true. But don't get caught otherwise you'll end up like pose 1. Snake, while she spanks your ass! :-D
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  • + 38
 This is weird! I have just started to get this pain right in between my shoulder blades. Just the last few days it has flared up after not bothering me for years. Thank you Abi. I will be giving this a go.
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  • + 164
 Your username makes this comment a million times better... Big Grin
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  • + 10
 I deal with this constantly, mostly I think from sitting at a desk all day.
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  • + 7
 I hope these poses start to reduce the pain @ouchy and @sino428. Try to be conscious of drawing your shoulder blades back into position during the day and stretching your chest when you get the chance
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  • + 2
 @yoga15app I'm definitely going to try focusing on stretching my chest more. I never realized that the chest could be impacting my neck/shoulder pain.
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  • + 2
 My shoulder blades and my neck have been growing some sort of discomfort (not quite pain yet) for the last couple of months. I just tried these exercises and boy i feel no more tension in that particular area... I might start incorporating yoga in my routines Smile Thank you Abi!
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  • + 1
 No problem @Davidt89 - let me know if I can help in anyway.
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  • + 1
 And try to incorporate some foam rolling/lacrosse ball trigger point release if you can @sino428.
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  • + 19
 I'm sure I'm not the only one here who's enjoyed a separated shoulder. Seems to be the go to injury for cyclists of all denominations. Anything for the shoulders is a godsend.
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  • + 4
 Unfortunately, shoulder injuries are common in most action sports - be careful not to do any poses that cause you pain @bzmarcin.
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  • + 4
 During my one and only seizure in 20+ years of having diabetes, both my shoulders popped out of their sockets from the muscles spasming so tightly. They'd randomly pop out while driving or riding for about a year after that, but now they're fine. Never separated one while riding. Knock on wood!
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  • + 3
 Oh jeez! That's rough.
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  • + 4
 At least I'm still here to talk about it! Smile
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  • + 12
 MTB might be exercise but it's a very unnatural position & movement for the body. You have to counteract that with opposing movements and resistance, or you'll just feel like crap eventually. To all the young guys, take the time and do the things your body needs. Sometimes older people know what they're talking about!
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  • + 7
 +1. Back in the days I used to focus purely on practising tricks. It went well, but my muscles got super stiff, really lacked mobility and that combined with all the impacts lead to me having a hernia at age 18. Eventually had to stop riding street and now 7 years later my lower back is still a weak point (even though I do a lot of core training, balance training and also you a since half a year thanks to Abi). Wish I did yoga in my street riding days and that hernia would not have happened. Yoga has helped my back issues A LOT since I started doing it Smile . Big thanks to Abi for that!! Smile
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  • + 3
 Yoga is a nice addition but only part of the picture. As JesseE said, you need resistance too. I do heavy compound lifts twice a week for maybe 30 minutes. I'm 36 and I look and feel better than ever. I don't have data to back this up but I also feel like I crash and recover much better.
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  • + 3
 Spot on comments here. I've been doing Yoga 3 times a week for 1 hour since October and my early season riding feels so much better. Challenge yourself to do high level, difficult sessions and I'd argue it's more effective than lifting for most people. Be consistent and keep going year-round. In the past I've done lots of weight lifting during the winter but gained access muscle. For me, it becomes challenging as it goes away (likely turns to jello) if you don't maintain it.
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  • + 4
 So true @JesseE - it's much easier to pre-empt injury than try to heal it.
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  • + 3
 I'm sorry that you still suffer from a weak back @Mattin but glad that the vids are helping to to stay strong and supple.
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  • + 10
 I feel like congratulations needs to be given to all commenters on this post that nobody has actually gone down the inappropriate comment road. Seriously. I'm impressed.

On a side note, I'd love your opinion @yoga15app (unless i've missed it in a past post) related to bertolotti's syndrome if you've had any experience with this in the past (fused L5/sacrum), and non surgical/medical/medication remedies to help alleviate the discomfort, I haven't been able to find anything whatsoever online. Touching my toes is pretty much the only stretch that actually provides any relief...
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  • + 4
 I'm sorry @robaussie99 but that is not a condition I am familiar with. I'd recommend finding a specialist physio.
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  • + 2
 No worries, thanks anyway!
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  • + 5
 Abi: I'm always so impressed with your exercises. Never heard/thought of an upward plank before. So simple and so damn difficult! Never thought of my shoulders and neck as 'closed' but they sure are compared to the picture. Step by step I guess.

Wouldn't have believed it without the picture. Thanks so much, I really appreciate your intelligent contributions.
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  • + 2
 Upward Facing Plank is basically horrible @captaingrumpy but it is a great chest opener and total body strengthener. Definitely build up to it slowly. I hope it helps to reverse any postural misalignments you have.
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  • + 4
 Can't thank you enough @yoga15app for these great routines! I've been using all your videos recently and they have really helped to unlock tight hips, relieve sore back, neck and shoulders and strengthen muscles. Great stuff!! If you ever want to do a yoga and bike trip in BC, look me up! Thanks again!
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  • + 3
 Will do @WanderingWheels! I'll make it up there soon enough.
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  • + 4
 Thanks Abi, these tutorials are excellent. I have started using your 'post ride' yoga routine. It is excellent and very specific which is great. However, I seem to have IT band tightness. Do you think the routine will eventually help to release that or could I add a more specific yoga posture to deal with the IT band? Thanks again.
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  • + 2
 The IT Band is actually pretty tough to stretch. In my Pose Guide For Mountain Bikers, there are a couple of great poses - Dead Pigeon, Folded and Reclining Butterfly, Low Lunge with Sidebend and modified Reclining Spinal Twist.

Here is the link: www.yoga15.com/mtb-shop

Sidebends are the best because the stretch they generally stretch the entire side of the body. There is a sequence on my Vimeo series for that: vimeo.com/ondemand/yogaforbikers

I hope that helps.
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  • + 1
 I've been doing foam rolling for tight IT bands for two years which has helped, but after going to an excellent sports doctor after some recent knee issues I was told they were still tight. The solution was rolling on a lacrosse ball. You get it and roll it back and forth so it flicks over the IT band. Work up or down doing every few inches between your knee and glute. The difference was noticeable in a few weeks. It hurts at first, but you get used to it.
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  • + 1
 Thanks, will try that.
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  • + 1
 Great, I'll take a look at those. Really helpful. Thanks ????????
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  • + 1
 Mistyping. Thanks :-)
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  • + 3
 I gotta be honest, I never expected that I'd want to see a yoga video on PB.....for me though, this might possibly be one of the most useful video's that PB has ever featured. As a chronic sufferer of soreness/tightness in the upper back, neck and shoulders (for all the reasons she's already mentioned), this video is most welcome. Ta very much Smile
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  • + 3
 I wish I had read this years ago. I have torn my right labrum, connective tissue in the hip joint, and am now dealing with years worth of back and neck issues. It turns out that years of trail riding has done nothing for my core strength. I have been on a three month hiatus from my bike until I work out all of the pain. My upper back and shoulder muscles were so knotted up it baffled my physical therapist at times. The pain comes and goes now but I have the stretches and workouts that fix the issues almost immediately. Just in time for the warm weather Smile
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  • + 3
 no matter how much i take care of my working posture, i end up once a month with shoulder plate pain...i started doing some fitnes and it helps a lot, but some of this excersises you can do in office, thanks Abi
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  • + 2
 Who would have thought that the internet would be responsible for the emasculation of the first world, when here I was thinking the impetus behind the World Wide Web was to sell more porn? Fascinating.
@TheR has got all you white knights dead to rights. At least reedjason is honest. And not creepy.
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  • + 1
 Abi, do you have any recommendations for people who suffer from patellar tendonitis? I was out riding with my boss and in between these trails he took a break to do some trailside yoga that helped him with his spine. Just wondering if there was something i could do to help with my aching knees.
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  • + 1
 I recommend you see a specialist physical therapist first @carlomdy and then when you have some more info, I would be happy to recommend some specific poses.
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  • + 3
 Could it be possible to have one of those video about "after a shape day". I just come back from 5hours digging and as usual my back hurts. Thank you Abi !
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  • + 2
 You need a Recovery routine @wizido!

There's one on my updated Vimeo series:

vimeo.com/ondemand/yogaforbikers

Also the lower back pain and achey neck and shoulder vids on my profile should help.
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  • + 3
 More shoulder exercise please Abi. I have an on going issue with my right shoulder. I'm sure I'm not alone....lots of upper body injuries from crashing bikes out thereSmile
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  • + 0
 Check out my new Pose Guide for lots more poses to build shoulder strength and increase flexibility @warehouse:

www.yoga15.com/mtb-shop
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  • + 1
 Abi, I suffer constantly with knots in my right shoulder blade, i assume this could be from working at a desk and using a keyboard and possibly old injuries (left side is fine). Will these poses assist me in easing these knots away? Currently i need to work them with a lacrosse ball to get any relief! Keep up the great work! :0)
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  • + 2
 Absolutely @usernamenotavailable. And think about using the lacrosse ball on your chest and collarbone area to release tightness that is impacting your shoulder blade.
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  • + 1
 Thanks for your reply Abi.
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  • + 3
 Thank you! Sitting at a desk for 50 hours a week, and riding almost every day have really caused issues. I am excited to try these out.
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  • + 3
 No probs @moefosho. Try to be conscious of stretching your chest when you get the chance during your work day - in a door frame works well.
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  • + 1
 I've been doing these stretches for my chest in the corner of the show - elbows on the wall, face into corner and let yourself fall in - and my shoulders have been problem free for years. Also at a desk. I adjusted my bench press position too, which really helped as that used to aggravate my shoulders as well.
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  • + 1
 To all the idiotic comments made with regard to Abi,yoga or women...

This lady is real,real enough to contribute to this forum,a mostly male led forum, over 1600 followers, yes really, here to assist and help you to make your riding improved and heal you quicker.. want to ruin that experience do you? If so, do one xxx

I appreciate and respect the fact that this lady contributes more to this forum than any of you ever will, putting herself out to help you with what is probably the best functioning exercises known to man

Your allowed to think what you will,just please refrain from posting trash comments. Its time to grow up, i am not alone in thinking this. C'mon lads, where's the love ?
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  • + 3
 Thanks Abi, I've been doing some of the other routines and feeling the improvements. Looking forward to this one the same as many others here with shoulder problems.
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  • + 2
 Awesome @map-guy - let me know if you have any questions.
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  • + 1
 Ok@ryetoast people can were whatever they want?yes they can but when it goes out to public domain,your leaving yourself wide open.i couldn't comment on Middle eastern cultures,don't know personally know anything about them first hand I couldn't possibly speculate.
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  • + 1
 interesting, my shoulders prob once a week feel like there on fire from work and then i gotta bike home and it gets insanely hot/burn. what can i do? i think I'm over stretching on a constant always reaching.

www.pinkbike.com/photo/7827807

www.pinkbike.com/photo/7827802
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  • + 2
 I've had this issue for years and the cracks that come out of my neck every few hours are incredibly loud. Thanks for sharing this, will get on it.
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  • + 1
 No probs @sicmoto - let me know if you have any questions.
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  • + 1
 @sicmoto - This I can relate to!!! I'm definitely going to give this a try on my day off to see if it sorts things out. Fingers crossed Smile
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  • + 1
 The chest stretches get progressively harder @sicmoto and @arna86 so take it slow. Only move onto the next pose when you feel confident in the one that comes before it. And good luck.
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  • + 1
 Might just be the angle, but I am having trouble replicating this in the clinic using the same posture, the first picture looks like moderate level of winging of the scapular from serratus anterior dysfunction.
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  • + 1
 It's just a weird angle @smuggly. Nothing to worry about!
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  • + 2
 This is EXACTLY what I needed! Right shoulder and neck pain from my desk job and riding just aggravates it even more. Thanks Abi!
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  • + 2
 No Wackers? What does that mean?
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  • + 4
 No wackers means no problem. Maybe it's an English thing @speed10. You can use it if you want!
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  • + 2
 I used context to conclude that was probably what it meant. hilarious. I would not substitute "problem" for "wacker" in the states. It would undoubtedly lead to whackers Smile
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  • + 2
 You 'still' need a bike in the background whilst demonstrating to us Abi !! Yes,you do! Next level..

Smile

Great exercises as ever,changing my life for the better x
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  • + 1
 Thanks @topsedit. I'll demonstrate some yoga on the bike one day!
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  • + 1
 Be careful trying any of this stuff for first time, especially if older, eg over 40 years old you can do more damage if not that flexible, work on more basic flexibility exercises first!
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  • + 1
 I agree @aljoburr - the vid is much more gentle and accessible.
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  • + 3
 Dear Abi, being a biking mother of two under-3-year-olds, your routines are just PERFECT for me!
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  • + 1
 Awesome @waldman! I am so impressed. A lot of new mums have a million excuses for not keeping fit and healthy!
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  • + 2
 Thank you, Abi! I have been looking forward to your next yoga video for us and this one perfectly addresses a soreness issue I have had for a long time!
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  • + 1
 Awesome. Let me know how you get on. Bridge pose especially should really help @tnelson.
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  • + 0
 Good!, actually I experienced this type of pain after doing a lot of bench press and pullups and side lateral lifting, I'll try this, it might work... Just a quick comment, she's so flexible, I've never seen anything like her before.
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  • + 3
 Haha. I've been stretching for a while now @boyblue1973!
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  • + 1
 @boyblue1973 How's your form when you bench? I learned a bit from some power lifter types and it has worked wonders on my shoulders, more so than physio or stretching ever did alone. www.powerliftingtowin.com/powerlifting-technique-how-to-bench-press
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  • + 1
 @ow-X @BeastModeJones is the antithesis of Abi, but they're both just trying to help.
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  • + 2
 Yoga Girl Abi, your just too good to be true. I a big fan. Jesse E, its good, I use machine or free weights, I have been working out for over ten years now, non stop, heavy lifting, its just, I have a lot of injuries already too much sports I played since childhood, from basketball, soccer, biking, weights, swimming etc.
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  • + 1
 @boyblue1973 yeah, injuries complicated things. And if 73 means you're even older than me, those injuries probably have a way of sneaking up on you! Don't use machines, their unnatural. Happy riding!
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  • + 1
 Jesse E, of course Im older than you, youre only 37. Machines, theyre better at my age and I can lift heavier weights than free weights at this this time, back in a day free weight was good for me, but not anymore.
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  • + 1
 I'd say look into that idea that free weights are for younger people a bit more. I've read multiple articles that speak to the benefit of free weights over machines, with age not being a factor. You're not 80 are you? Free weights demand good form, but are more beneficial over all cause they use more muscle and demand more of the nervous system. Machines can also potentially cause injury cause you're force to move the the machines rigid motion as opposed your own natural motion. Regardless, it's good you're keeping the resistance training up.

www.pushfitnessonline.com/?q=Why-Machines-Suck
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  • + 1
 Hmmm this might actually help me, ever since i had a car crash my upper back, shoulderblades and neck is a mess. I'll gve this a try.
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  • + 2
 Anyone else see the first photo and immediately try it? I did..... bad idea....
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  • + 4
 Sorry @brockfisher05. I should have put a warning!
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  • + 3
 oh this is by no means your fault haha.
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  • + 2
 Yes! Can't wait to use these, i've suffered from pain in my right shoulder blade muscle for years. Love your work Abi!
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  • + 3
 Her voice already relaxes me massively. I feel like taking a nap now.
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  • + 3
 Thanks pinkbike for another addition of Abi !
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  • + 2
 Your workout are really helpful, especially for the do it at home guys, like me and my wife. Thanks a bunch. Smile
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  • + 2
 Is there one for arm-pump and sore wrists?
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  • + 2
 Not specifically @djm35 - but all these routines are great for strengthening your wrists and stretching the muscles in your forearms.
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  • + 0
 I'm guessing by your perpetual need to label me and call me names and summon some mutual back up on here, you are in fact a bully.
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  • + 2
 Thank you so much! this came in the perfect moment and its helping a lot!
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  • + 1
 Awesome. Let me know if you have any questions @kletax.
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  • + 0
 Crap, am I the only one who attempted to do the pose in the first picture and then start to develop pain in my shoulder blade??
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  • - 1
 Two of my biking injuries were broken wrist and broken shoulder blade. No way I can make it like on the opening picture. Most important is I can still ride my bike Smile Have a good day Abi!
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  • + 2
 Thanks @karoliusz. Try some of the exercises in the vid to relax your upper body.
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  • + 2
 I'm...I'm not sure I am that flexible yet.
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  • + 2
 The thirst is real in these comments..
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  • + 1
 I just tied to touch my palms behind my back like in the first photo and pulled 1 muscle in each shoulder.
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  • + 1
 Thanks, that really works well! tup
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  • + 0
 @ryetoast don't mither me please.im not interested in anything you have to say.
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  • + 1
 What's a mither? As for the latter statement, you run your mouth, I'll run mine.
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  • + 0
 Go and burn your bra.
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  • + 1
 Looks like Abi never brake her scaphoid...
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  • + 2
 Yoga is so good!
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  • + 1
 Just what I need! Thanks Abi!
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  • + 2
 Simply awesome!
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  • + 1
 Thanks @gaoyiyang! I hope recovery is still going strong.
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  • + 1
 Thanks for asking, Abi. My hand is back to normal functions. I already started biking and yogaing again! However, my doctor suggests to take out the media piece and pins after 1 year, so later this year i will have to do a second surgery for this. So far it's healing up quite well. Cheers!
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  • + 2
 Good stuff Terminator!
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  • + 1
 amazing work as always
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  • + 0
 A portion of Abi again! Thanks a lot ! Smile
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  • - 2
 How can you counter such pain? Suck it up dont be a little bitch youll be ok.
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