Exercises for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Have you tried stretching or other exercises for your neck or shoulder pain, but have not found relief? After only 10 minutes a day for 8 weeks, these four exercises using a resistance band have been shown to reduce work-related neck and shoulder pain. 

Equipment

For these exercises, all you need is a band. You can use a long ribbon band, long loop band, or tube bands.

Exercise #1:  Single Arm Row

Stand in a split stance with your band under the lead foot, and hinge in your hips to about 45°. Pull the band up until your hand touches your chest and then slowly straighten your arm back to the start.

During each repetition, think about pulling your shoulder blade in toward your spine, while keeping the neck muscles relaxed.

Click here for video demo.

Exercise #2: Upright Row

Stand on your band with both feet, and pull your hands up to neck height, lifting elbows toward the ceiling. Straighten your arms back to the start and then repeat.

Click here for video demo.

Exercise #3:. Single Arm Reverse Fly

Stand on your band with the opposite foot and hinge in your hips to about 45° with a flat back. Keeping the elbow relatively straight, lift the arm up to shoulder height, slowly lower back down and then repeat.

Click here for video demo.

Exercise #4: Single Arm Lateral Raise

Stand on your band with your opposite foot, and keeping your arm relatively straight, lift your arm from your side until it is about parallel with the ground. Return to the start and repeat with a controlled motion.

Click here for video demo.

Programming

You will perform these four exercises 5 days a week for at least 8 weeks, at a time most convenient for you.

For weeks 1 through 4, you are going to perform 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions for each exercise, while for weeks 5 through 8, you are going to perform 2 sets of 8-10 repetitions.

Each set should be hard, meaning you go to- or very close to failure. Start with an appropriate band resistance to match this effort level. To make the exercises harder, you can shorten the band, double the band, or simply use a thicker or harder resistance. 

Why These Exercises?

Saeterbakken et al 2020 found that these resistance exercises helped reduce neck and shoulder pain in the workplace.

They observed 2 groups, both of which did a control period of 8 weeks where there was no intervention. Afterwards, each completed these 4 exercises, 5 days a week for 8 weeks. Group 1 completed these exercises once a day while group 2 did these twice a day.

Strength, pain levels, and quality of life were assessed at 0, 8 and 16 weeks.

There were 2 main takeaways.

1. When comparing the control period to the training period for both groups, they found no differences in strength, but there was up to 43% reduction in worst pain and almost a 11% improvement in quality of life after performing the exercises.

2. When comparing group 1 to group 2, they found no differences in outcomes, meaning whether individuals trained once or twice a day really did not make a significant difference in symptoms or quality of life.

This can be helpful when providing a dosage. More is not necessarily better, so it is recommended you perform these exercises once a day, see how you respond, and you can always increase the frequency, if needed.

Disclaimer

Even though the exercises did not change strength, there are a variety of reasons why they might have been helpful for reducing symptoms and improving quality of life.

Furthermore, it is important to know that these exercises are not inherently special. These can be a great consideration because they are easy to learn, quick to do, and you don’t need much equipment – just a single band. But other resistance exercises, walking, or your preferred movements like yoga or pilates that help break up repetitive tasks are also viable options (de Zoete et al 2020, Saeterbakken et al 2017, Sitthipornvorakul et al 2020, Van Eerd et al 2016).

Summary

If you are looking to reduce neck and shoulder pain and have not found success with stretching or other movements, these 4 resistance exercises using a band have been shown to be an efficient and effective option.

To maximize outcomes, you should perform these once a day, 5 days a week, while progressing effort over the course of at least 8 weeks. 

Thanks for reading. Check out the video and please leave any questions or comments below.

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