Bye-Bye, Neck and Shoulder Pain From RA

On-the-spot yoga fixes that ease tension fast.

Dorothy Foltz-Gray
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It’s happened to all of us: a bad night’s sleep, hours behind the wheel, deadline pressure at work—and then a stiff neck or shoulder pain that won’t go away! To the rescue: Yoga! Just check with your doctor before trying them, especially if you have a neck or shoulder injury.

Carol Krucoff, 59, knows firsthand how healing yoga can be. As a young journalist at the Washington Post, she developed chronic neck pain and headaches from working long hours at a computer. Coincidentally, she began taking yoga once a week to counter job stress and the inflexibility that came with running.

“I had been taking yoga for four to six months when I noticed it had relieved my neck pain, and I was no longer getting headaches,” says Carol, now a yoga therapist who designs programs for folks with health challenges at Duke Integrative Medicine, Duke University Health System in Durham, NC. She began straightening her posture at her computer and wearing a headset, despite teasing from colleagues. “Yoga taught me that it wasn’t just what I did on the mat but what I took into daily life that was powerful.”

Her students have learned yoga’s power as well. Susana Biswas, 72, who was in Carol’s first class at Duke, suffered chronic neck and shoulder pain, the result of heavy lifting she did as a nurse. “Her yoga class helped immediately, and the pain gradually disappeared,” says Susana.

Starting here, Carol shares four yoga moves to relieve everyday causes of neck and shoulder pain—right on the spot! 

Stuck at the computer?
Try this:
Seated backbend
Sitting tall, bring your hands to your thighs, elbows tucked. Inhale, lift your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades together and tilt your head up a few inches (don’t drop your head far back), keeping your neck long. Take a few easy breaths, then release.
Why it works:
“A seated backbend reverses the tendency to round forward at your desk by taking your spine in the opposite direction,” notes Carol. “When you hold your head—which weighs about as much as a bowling ball!—forward all day, your neck and shoulders get tired.” 

Wake up with a neck kink?
Try this:
Easy head rocking
Lie on your back, head on the mattress, knees bent, arms by your sides. Rock your head slowly to your right shoulder and back to center, then to your left shoulder and back to center. Keep lips together but teeth apart, taking relaxed breaths. Repeat several times.
Why it works:
This restores normal movement by safely releasing muscle tension, says Carol. 

April 2013