We all store stress in various places around our bodies. Most of us store it in places like the neck and shoulders, the low back, and also in the belly. All very complicated parts of the body, and in times of acute pain, they are often challenging areas to assess and target the root of the pain.
In my case, I used to train with heavy weights, a lot. Some might say I overtrained. Some might say I created some imbalances in strength, especially from front to back. The outcome of which was pain which manifested itself in chronic neck tension. I also worked at a computer, which locked my upper back long. One day my neck seized. My neck seized in a way where my left shoulder was being drawn up towards my left ear and I couldn’t turn my head at all. Even when my neck was able to recenter itself, days later and with heavy anti-inflammatory prescription meds that were eating away at my stomach, I still held tension all through my upper back and shoulders.
I couldn’t figure out which muscles were responsible. I didn’t find the doctors particularly helpful either. But I did find that my yoga practice helped. So I committed to a daily practice. For years I worked at it, but still, during very stressful times I would notice how painful checking my blindspots, looking over my shoulder, when driving would be. And all I could think was, “How with all of the yoga I’m doing, 5 years later, is my neck still tight?”
When I was introduced to Yoga Tune Up® and we did the trapezius work with the YTU Therapy Balls (in the video below) I finally found the muscle that was inhibiting my neck’s mobility. This simple technique, when added to my daily practice was able to free up the remnants of years of overtraining and the storage of stress in my shoulders. You can get more self massage for neck pain techniques like it on the 10 Minute Quick Fix for the Neck and Upper Back to learn how to massage neck pain away.
Discover more neck pain solutions.
Read about the importance of good posture.
Read about the perils of forward head posture.
The “10 Minute Quick Fix for the Neck and Upper Back” is on the menu in my house tonight. I have just finished report cards and feel heavily gargoyled in my upper body form. This concept of a community blog really is a great idea, especially for those who do not have a background in anatomy and movement!
Thank you Todd. This post is a great reminder for me that we often think about neck pain as a problem in the cervical spine area and forget the the “functional neck” goes much lower, i.e. we need to work on the “upper back.” Language can really trip up my thinking processes sometimes.
My husband has a similar background of lifting heavy weights and working at a desk all day. In fact, before we met, he didn’t really do any other form of movement. I have started to introduce him to therapy ball work which he says has helped him see and feel more freedom in his neck and shoulders.
Using the therapy balls on my trapezius & rhomboid muscles has opened up my back significantly to greater movement and flexibility! I look forward to working on my neck more now too! The therapy balls are fantastic tools!!!
I have suffered 10 concussions and multiple incidences of whiplash. This story that you share about the medicinal way of dealing with pain can often cause other symptoms. I developed IBS from years of pain medication and anti inflammatory pills. Yoga Tune Up balls allow me to create a pain free neck shoulders, back, legs, like my whole being is a well rinsed sponge.
Thanks for the reminder about rolling all the way to the lower traps. Too much driving and computer work has made my neck tweak often. Since rolling with the therapy balls regularly on my upper traps, SCM and suboccipitals, my neck and posture are much improved!
Being a Massage Therapist causes me to forward flex my neck on a daily basis. I suffer from posterior neck problems as well. Using the YTB to release my trapezius and suboccipitals has really stopped me from bugging my fellow RMT’s to massage out my knots! Thanks for teaching me today Todd not to forget about my lower traps!
thank you for you post! I too suffered from chronic neck pain for years and once I started incorporating the yoga tune up balls into my daily practice I started to notice a significant drop in pain. So grateful for YTU!
Thanks for the post!! I also had chronic neck pain for years and it wasn’t until I started incorporating the tune up balls into my daily practice that I started to notice a significant decrease in pain. So grateful!
It is so important to keep our neck muscles supple and strong so that our brain continues to have good blood perfusion. Possibly, this may diminish our chances of suffering with headaches, insomnia, depression or anxiety just to name a few. Also with stronger neck muscles, we may be less susceptible for injuries like concussions. Good for you for being so persistent with your treatment.
I have chronic neck pain and also a problem to move my shoulders proberly. The last year I had to sit many hours in front of my computer and the problem was getting worse. So, thanks for the ball exercise.
Todd, Great post, I think most of us can relates to neck tension, although I’ve used balls for years it was only when I found the Roll Model Therapy Balls and some of the sequences you mention did I begin to get lasting relief from fairly constant neck pain from lugging large amounts of Yoga kit around and overusing certain muscles in treating other people !! Im taking TIME for ME to do more self care, getting on my mat more regularly and rolling out a lot of the tension & issues in my tissues !! and allowing myself to find the reset button to help down regulate my nervous system when I get to overloaded.
Thanks for sharing Todd, I have chronic neck pain. My posture, sitting at the desk and sleeping on my stomach doesn’t help. The therapy balls have helped roll out the kinks, as well as stretching and massage. More mindfulness on how I hold my self on a daily basis is what I am practicing more and more.
I had no idea how much damage I was doing to my shoulders and neck from (over)training and sitting in front of a computer all day until I had trigger points all over my shoulder blades that I couldn’t ignore. Oh ya, and shoulder impingement. I’m really glad to know there’s hope for undoing all of the over-training.
Allo! Merci Todd!
I have been living with chronic neck pain for several years, always blaming my pillow or lack of the proper pillow. Since buying and trying the Roll Model book this past summer(2015) I am starting to feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel and the ability to turn my head to see over my shoulder while driving and more importantly, my dog charging down the hill to jump out of the way before getting run over(best for the knees!) rather than having to turn the whole body! and looking forward to helping my yoga clients know that they too can help themselves rewire the body and mind to live better in their bodies! Yay! Nice to know I am not alone~ Thanks for sharing the story.
Hi Todd !
Je trouve cet article vraiment très intéressant ! Personnellement, j’ai eu pendant tout près de 2 ans, suite à un traumatisme, une contraction constante de mon élévateur de la scapula, comme si mon épaule était en protection et par le fait même, mon épaule était aussi en protraction. Étant donné que l’élévateur de la scapula origine des 4 premières vertèbres cervicales, sa contraction constante a créé une tension sur les vertèbres cervicales et provoqué ainsi des céphalées d’origines tensionnelle, circulatoire, voire même névralgique. J’avais même une douleur irradiée au bras et de très mauvaises nuits de sommeil et une contraction de mon sourcil de ce côté !! I’ve burned my stomach too with anti-inflammatory !!!
La protraction constante des épaules a créé un étirement excessif de mes rhomboïdes qui se sont retrouvés inhibés. J’ai utilisé les balles de YTU durant des mois…..ça apportait un soulagement temporaire, mais la douleur revenait toujours, sans aucun changement, je dirais même que les symptômes augmentaient. Lorsque j’ai compris qu’une rééducation et un renforcement de mes muscles était essentiel (relâchement du petit pectoral, de l’élévateur de la scapula et renforcement des mes rhomboïdes), j’ai obtenu un soulagement presque radical d’environ 75% en quelques jours…Incroyable !!!!!
YTU, it’s the life !!!
Imagine all the people living like this that do not know how simple it is to become body aware! I am going to use this in my classses.
My neck and shoulders are often tight and I have found this helps too. I work in a chiropractic office and remember a patient coming in and at first glance I thought she was talking on the phone. I then realized that her neck was actually stuck that way! She was in school and was carrying a heavy backpack around daily. Now that I know about the YTU balls I can share this information too.
I have a similar story with neck/shoulder pain. After years of practicing yoga I wondered why I could not find the trigger associated with my neck/shoulder pain. When I began using YTU therapy balls I was able to trace the pain back to a weak rotator cuff muscle(infraspinatus).
This is such a good one. I recently had braces and throughout found my trapezius unbearably tight. This roll out technique saved me! Thanks for sharing your story.
I have been having fun with the therapy balls today. I chose the shoulders to teach a ball sequence for training tomorrow because as a video editor, writer, and full-time yoga instructor, I manifest so much stress and tension in my shoulders. This exercise helped warm up my trapezius muscles which then opened up the shoulder girdle. The floor is awesome but then I had fun using the wall. The balls allow for so much creativity when approaching your blind spots. And what an inexpensive massage!
Agreed! I get on my balls in my neck and shoulders daily now. It’s the only way my periscapular muscles don’t bother me.
I also struggle with chronic, neck and shoulder pain. Lately the pain had been radiating upwards into my head. It’s especially bad after I spend too long working at the computer or when my stress level is up. I can’t always avoid the time at the computer or even the stress – it’s nice to have some tools to help release some of this tension. Thanks for sharing!
Great article…short…sweet and straight to the point. I have to fly now….I’m going to do the ball work shown by Jill in the video!! Time to get some stress out of the shoulders and neck!!
That is me! I have chronic neck tightness and levator scapulae soreness. Last time the muscle seized, I was in pain for weeks nothing helped (homeopathic, naturopathic and even western medicine), I had seen my chiro and a doctor to help manage the migraines it was causing. The tune up balls along with hot baths right after help an incredible, even just resting them on the tender spot and allowing the muscle to relax over!
The shoulder work is by far my favourite!
My entire life, I loved to jump. So for me, when I committed to take my health into my own hands (this time it’s for real, I swear!), jumping is something that I naturally aspired on doing again.
Long story short, after 5 years of working behind a desk crouched in front of a computer, my hips had lost their desire to jump. My Pelvis all out of whack, my Psoas, Iliacus, Piriformis, TFL and Adductors were all in a slumber.
Luckily, I was introduced to YTU balls and YTU technics. Though its a work in progress, my hips are now awake again.
Tomorrow, squats! Then rolling-out my glutes…
Gotta love this self-care thing.
Thanks for posting this Todd. I am one who used to frequently have neck spasms, and I sometimes still do. In my case, I believe the key is opening pectoralis major and minor while simultaneously relaxing rectus abdominus. It’s almost as if they’re fused so that my chest is either sticking out too far, or caved in (pulled and governed by rectus abdominus…which is also too stiff). It’s amazing what can happen with the right tools to unstick these sliding cables in our bodies! Peace 🙂
Ok well this is definately weird…..I wrote my last comment just minutes ago about how tight my traps are and found this next blog about neck pain. Today in class someone in the back asked a question and I turned my head to see her and could not complete the transaction of turning my head because it was to tight and stiff. Thanks yet again for this article will add this to my weekly fitness regiment. JL OUT
Thanks for this! I have major blind spots in my upper back and neck area! Will be using the therapy balls and some Tune Up poses to help strengthen this very big blind spot…
Just got my new set of balls, so still learning to use them. Let my daughter try them today and she figured out that it actually released some tension she didn’t even know she had from sitting at school all day 😉
Todd; I have a bulging c5-6 disc which has improved greatly with a regular yoga praactice which you mentioned in your article. I am learninng using the therapy balls in teacher training just as you mentioned. I am amazed at how much better the muscles in my neck feel with just a few days use. I am looking forward to using them daily in my self care practice. thank you for sharing your experiance.
Thanks Todd! Great story… I have chronic neck tension and pain that emerges from some old injury patterns and poorly healed assymetric clavicles. I get instant relief with the YTU balls and also benefit from using them on TMJ area: masseter and temporalis especially.
Everything is connected! I also am a “desk worker” and have blind spots in and around my neck, even though I carry my Therapy Balls with me in my purse, I have only ever massaged my neck. Now being able to understand that my neck tension (and tension headaches) is likely originating elsewhere and having the knowledge to “see” my blind spots is empowering!
The therapy balls are like magic for creating space and fluidity in our blindspots. I can’t wait to try this sequence again – freedom!
Today, as you, me and Keith we were working on deadlifts, one of our assistant coaches came in to see the gym ART guy. She was complaining about the very thing you describe above.
Thanks for the reminder of how important self care is for everyone–including the CrossFit community. Our shoulders and neck are always working–we need to take better care.
Thanks for posting this Todd. I did a lot of weight lifting with the football team in college and now sit at a desk for many hours of the day. On the other hand, I’m a yoga instructor and have similar issues to exactly what you’re describing – low back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain. My supraspinatus was starting to feel very…tweaky recently. A few sessions with the YTU balls at YTU Teacher’s Training and I can already tell a difference in how I carry myself, identify pain, and release it. I wish I had these as an athlete in college, as a yoga teacher before now, and in my office at work!
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This is one of those YTU therapy balls sequence that we will use daily three times a day once we FEEL it’s impact. In the video you posted the maneuver is done on the ground but we can do this using a wall, so take the therapy balls to work, ESPECIALLY, and where ever you go. Also, share the love, as others see how well you take care of yourself and how well this works and also improve their experience of life!
In our YTU class today I discovered a way to alleviate migraines. The balls hit just the right spot in my trapezius where my migraines originate. The exercises we did allowed me to explore and get to know the length of this muscle. It hit the spots perfect. I can’t wait to share this with my mom!
As I get older if it isn’t one thing in my body it’s another. Thank goodness for yoga. My neck changes sides but I have issues and it can be annoying at times especially while driving. I only took 2 YTU classes and found the tune up balls to be so successful in relieving pain and tightness. I sold so many balls to my Bikram students and they are amazed too. I can’t wait for my training to be done and I can teach everyone to be pain free and feel good with these 2 small but amazing miracle balls. Thank you for your article.
I have been using therapy balls in my stretch classes and members rave about them! They particularly enjoy the neck releases. I also find it a wonderful tool to release these areas prone to stress response.
I’m an avid cyclist and recently started having lower back pain. For years I’ve carried messenger bags and back packs with no problems; I stretch and mind my posture but it was not a sustainable practice. I now carry my gear in a bag attached to my bike. The pain still lingered whenever I rode until I was exposed to the therapy balls! They completely relieve the tightness and pain! Saturday I was lifting my bike onto a rack and strained a muscle in my neck, I suffered all day until I could get to my balls which provided immediate relief.
My neck and shoulders are always taking the brunt of my life – from heavy wine bags and computer cases to the stress of everyday life. This is such a testament to how YTU and yoga can be a relief from the physical and mental pressures we all face.
I absolutely relate to this neck tension. I have been feeling it a lot lately, and I have gotten some relief so far when using the yoga therapy balls. In class we have just touched on the surface of using them, so I definitely want to do Jill’s therapy ball immersion to work with them more. I think the technique of using the YTU balls to release myofascial tension is so amazing, because you have the ability to do it on your own in your own home whenever you want!
The therapy balls really make you understand why stretching alone won’t work. There’s no way stretching can get into the deep fascial adhesions and tightness that the therapy balls can. I feel the deepest sense of relaxation after opening after using them. Honestly as good as, if not better than a massage, because I can control the action myself.
Great article Todd. I woke up this morning and had a kink in my neck! The primary location was my upper trap although rolling out on the balls this morning helped me confirm that it originated in between my scapula’s closer to my rhomboids.
I can totally relate about 6 years ago working in the corporate fitness america world and would carry a heavy laptop, a gym bag on one side and was constantly on the phone in my car with NO headset. So I developed scoliosis and chronic neck problems, with hypertonic upper traps, levater scapula etc. It took years to get back on track through myofascial release, accupressure and yoga. It’s amazing what we do to our bodies and the imbalances we create by improper body mechanics.
Hi, I agree, think it’s fantastic with the therapy balls, have tried it a few times, I also have neck problems and a stiff upper back. The best days are when i have time ti do my flow practice in the morning and gone to a therapy yoga in the evening. The balls are difficult to find in Sweden though.
Thank you Jill, now I can keep on with the good work with no more pain in my neck and back. And also give my clients some advice hopefully.
I definitely empathize with this blog, I too have struggled with neck pain for years. When you work a desk job and are at a computer all day, it is inevitable that you will take home upper back and neck issues. I love rolling around on my Yoga Tune Up balls when I get home from work!
Oh the neck! Oh, my neck. It is the one place I take tension. But often, I find this area needs more attention, and not less – it needs to be strengthened, not babied – massaged/carressed ather than left in exile/abandoned. I am taking Pure Yoga Teacher Training, and Lillee introduced us to the Yoga TuneUp Therapy Balls, and WOW, what a difference they can make. I rolled them on all (neck) related muscles, such as shoulders muscles, upper back muscles, and gently around adjacent neck and head areas – and boy did some knots give way, soften, and release. Thank you Lillee, thank you Todd, thank you Jill. Thank you Yoga TuneUp Therapy Balls!