Yesterday I was taking pictures for the revision of my book, The Pain-Free Triathlete. That book is now 10 years old and I have found so many new treatments that it needed to be revised and enlarged. I can’t wait to tell you about it, but for now I want to tell you about a new self-treatment that I figured out for shoulder and neck pain.
Your levator scapulae muscle originates on your first four cervical vertebrae and goes down to the top of your shoulder blade. The nickname for the levator scapulae is “the shrug muscle” because it lifts your shoulder up — like when you shrug. The problem is that when the muscle is tight it is pulling down on the first four cervical vertebrae, causing direct pressure onto your spinal cord and the base of your brain. I’ve discovered that this muscle is the #1 cause of tension headaches.
Like all spasms, the treatment is to apply direct pressure on the spasm and then hold it for 30-60 seconds, release the pressure for a few seconds, and then re-apply the pressure. The pressure forces H+ ions out of the muscle fibers, and it draws in blood that nourishes the muscle fibers. The biggest problem was how to apply that pressure easily, the location made it a challenge. Up to this time I primarily had people using a Backnobber II, a fantastic tool that I still love and recommend, but now I’ve worked out a way to do it easily by using a ball.
The pictures will be in the new book, which will be titled The Pain-Free Athlete to denote all the many endurance sports and athletes I work with in my office and on my forum. You take a ball (either a tennis ball or the Julstro Perfect Ball) and put it directly onto the knot at the top of your shoulder. Use your opposite hand to press the ball into the knot, and place your same-side hand on top of the opposite hand. This will give you two-handed pressure onto the spasm. Just hold it for 30-60 seconds and then release the pressure as described above.
After you have done this 2-3 times, hold the pressure on the knot and gently move your head in the opposite direction so you can stretch the muscle fibers.
In my next post I’ll tell you the other way I’ve figured out how to treat the spasm in the shrug muscle.
Wishing you well,