CTB Yoga - 3 Pose Sequence That Stops Shoulder and Posterior Neck Pain

May 4, 2024

This video details the common sources of shoulder and neck pain that can develop after doing yoga arm balance poses such as crow, side crow, handstand and how to remediate the pain immediately with three counter poses. These poses use contract/relax stretching to reduce trigger points in the low/mid trapezius and serratus anterior which are the sources of most shoulder and posterior neck pain.

The scapular stabilizers, particularly the serratus anterior and the trapezius, can be easily overloaded in arm balances.  There is a lot of demand and load being put upon these muscles in arm balances.  Acute or chronic overload will produce trigger points, which are the number one most common source of pain, although rarely recognized by yoga teachers and medical professionals.

The trigger points in the serratus anterior and trapezius can be quickly and effectively reduced by following arm balances with the three counter poses using contract/relax stretching shown in this video.

00:00  Intro

01:44  Common Pain Referrals

03:20  Pain Example (Posterior Neck)

04:30  Counter Pose 1 (Low/Mid Trapezius)

05:54  Counter Pose 2 (Serratus Anterior)

09:32  Counter Pose 3 (Scapular Depressors)

10:54  Wrap-Up


What I'm going to show you today is a quick sequence that you can do to treat the scapular stabilizer muscles using contract relax stretching to resolve trigger point fibers. And you can use this After any arm balance or any pose where you're really putting a lot of demand on the scapular stabilizers. I've been working on doing crow pose and what I've found is after I get out of the posture, I will sometimes feel some radiating dull pain. In my upper neck, suboccipital area, and across the upper trapezius a little bit, but mostly in that back of the head back of the neck area, right about here.

 And also feels like almost like a, the beginning of some type of a headache that kind of like wraps around and I ll feel that on both sides. 

This type of a sensation that could actually lead to a headache is baffling to a lot of people but if you understand Trigger Point Therapy and Trigger Point Physiology, it's very explainable. And then what I do is I actually sequence a couple of things afterwards that reduce and eliminate that sensation.

So what happens when we're doing a pose like Crow Pose?

Or any arm balance, what we're doing is we're really loading the scapular stabilizers. It takes a lot of scapular stabilizing strength. You're putting all your body weight, basically into your arms. And the scapular stabilizers are doing a lot of work the low trapezius muscle the low trapezius muscle.

Back here, this is known to refer to the posterior neck, suboccipital region, across the top of the shoulder to the acromion process. This is very common. You might feel part of that or all of it, all of that pattern. For me, I mostly get it in the posterior neck area. And that's simply from trigger point.

So I'm really overloading the muscles as I build strength in this crow pose. I'm really pushing the muscles in how much I'm demanding from them. And if I do it, too much, I will start to get that sensation where the trigger points are referring pain. I can knock that down immediately.

And knocking that down then also will reduce the trigger points in the muscle, make the muscle not only not refer pain anymore, but also will let it be. Function normally, so the trigger points when you do something like a contracture like stretch to resolve trigger point issues youre making more of the muscle fibers available to actually contract on demand, function normally, and provide more strength and stability.

 So what I'm going to show you today is a quick sequence that you can do to treat the scapular stabilizer muscles using contract relax stretching to resolve trigger point fibers. And you can use this After any arm balance or any pose where you're really putting a lot of demand on the scapular stabilizers.

Here goes. So I'm going to do my crow pose and then I'm going to show you the sequence.

So I'm going to take a couple seconds break here. Just breathe. Notice what I feel. I don't really feel much right now. I like to usually do two sets. I'm going to do another set. And then I'll see what I feel after that.

After that second set, feel like my shoulder muscles have been working. But I also feel like, right back here, I feel this kind of like ghostly sensation, like a dull, throbbing almost.

That's from overloading the low trapezius and the serratus anterior.

So now I'm going to show you the counter poses to reduce the trigger points in the muscles, take that sensation away and these are contract relax style. Contract relax is a great way to reduce and resolve trigger point fibers. The first one I'm going to do, I'm going to come to hands and knees, and then this is going to really activate, contract my low and mid trapezius, and then give it a good lengthening.

First I engage, just by holding my arm out to the side like this, I'm adducting the scapula so the mid trapezius, low trapezius. is doing that. I'm going to do that, hold that with an inhale for about five seconds.

And then I'm going to come in to the stretch. So now I'm really protracting the scapula. So really moving it away from the spine.

And I'm going to do the same thing on the other side. And then I'm going to come back in. Contract, hold, inhale.

Exhale, relax, bring my arm underneath. And as I lower my torso to the ground, I'm really protracting the scapula and moving the scapula away from the spine.

And that felt like a great stretch. in this inner scapular area, which is what I was targeting. Now, the serratus anterior, the other big scapular stabilizer, we can address that as well. This muscle is the protractor. It s the antagonist to the trapezius muscle. It brings the shoulder forward. It also is involved in rotation of the scapula.

What I do is come to my side, I'm going to put my hand on my hip, and then put my arm behind my back.

And now I'm going to contract this muscle, so if I just push my shoulder forward, I protract my scapula forward, I basically bring my shoulder forward against the resistance of the mat. So I push it forward. So that's contracting the serratus anterior. I'm going to hold that with an inhale,

and exhale, relax it. Now, I'm going to roll my torso away from my arm that's trapped underneath me, and that is going to move [00:07:00] my spine and scapula towards each other, and it produces a big stretch on that serratus anterior.

I feel a good stretch there. Sometimes you might also light up some of that referral when you're doing the stretch, you're really moving the serratus anterior into a very lengthened position at the same time the mid trap and the low trap are going into a very short position. Sometimes that will elicit that referral but this is actually, you're doing it on purpose it's a treatment.

So that's actually a good thing. Because then you know that you're influencing these muscle fibers that are causing this pain. Trigger points will refer their pain typically on extreme shortening and extreme lengthening, which is why in yoga is very useful for resolving trigger points because we're constantly pushing length and shortening of muscles to their maximum.

And that will elicit the referral. A lot of what yoga teachers call, feeling like different energy in a pose is actually they're feeling referral pain. That's another video. So you'll, that one will be coming soon. Now I'm going to do the same thing for the other side. So I'm going to show it from the other direction.

So you see what it looks like from that direction. This is, put my hand on my hip, trap my arm underneath me. And now I push my shoulder forward. So I protract my scapula, hold, inhale.

Exhale. I'm going to relax as I roll my torso , but keeping my arm trapped underneath me.

So that's really adducting the scapula, putting a big stretch into my serratus anterior, which is what I'm feeling. Big stretch along the ribs on the left side. You might also feel like some cramping or shortening here. If you're feeling that, then you probably want to repeat the low trapezius contractor relax, which would be this again.

And give that muscle a little more help. Now, so that was a good little two two pose counter to the crow pose. Now I'm going to do one more thing this is a contract relax stretch for the low fibers, targeting the low fibers of the serratus anterior and the and the low trapezius.

These depress the scapula and I'm going to stretch them by letting the scapula elevate. So it looks like this. It's just It's almost like doing a lat pulldown, where it's basically just child's pose. I start to come into my child's pose. And now what I do is I'm going to just pull my scapula downward.

So I pull my arms downward, the scapula are going downward along my back, but I'm using the resistance of the mat to have something to pull against. So it doesn't need to be a much, it's basically an isometric contraction. I'm going to hold that for about five seconds with an inhale.

Then I'm going to exhale, and I'm going to walk my fingers forward a little bit, and let my butt sink down towards my heels, and let my scapula really ride up, so they're very elevated.

And that's a great stretch for those low fibers of the serracea anterior and the low trapezius, the ones that are the depressors of the scapula. That is a comprehensive three step stretch. counter pose way to treat the primary scapular stabilizers, low trapezius, mid trapezius, and the serratus anterior, pretty quickly it s a great sequence to follow any arm balance pose where the scapular stabilizers are being put a lot of demand onto.

I hope that gave you some good ideas and and if you're working on arm balances, try this out and see how it works for you. I think you'll be pretty impressed. It will not only decrease and remove any residual muscle pain referral from overloading these muscles, but it also primes these muscles to be able to function properly and for you to keep progressing and to keep making strength gains and stability gains with the scapular stabilizers.

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Most pain is referred by trigger points in muscles, although most medical professionals don’t understand this, and are misled by the “illusion of injury”.

The truth is, most pain can be eliminated fully and efficiently by understanding its true origins using the Coaching The Body principles and techniques.

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