Most of the normal activities we do around the house can be considered exercise, especially if we repeat the activity or movement many times in a row. Maintaining or even improving the ability to perform our daily activities is essential for quality of life. This is the fith in a series of simple exercises that can performed at home (or anywhere).

Muscles tend to get stiff when we don’t use them. Muscles will also tighten/shorten up when held in a position for a long period of time (think of your neck muscles when sitting at a computer all day). Stress can also cause muscles to tighten up. Muscles tend to remain in a shortened position unless we do something to relax them.

Most of the time, when a person complains of neck and upper back stiffness/spasms, the trapezious  is involved. This large muscle is involved with almost all neck, upper back and shoulder movements and is your most important postural muscle.

Gentle stretching combined with easy repetitive movements is one of the most effective methods for relaxing a muscle. Shoulder shrugs is an exercise that targets this muscle and can be performed as often as needed to relax the muscles of the upper back. This exercise can be done sitting or standing. First, lift both shoulders as high as possible. Then squeeze the shoulder blades together and lower the shoulders back down to a resting position. Repeat for a minimum of a minute.

This exercise can be made more difficult by holding small weights in your hands. Do not perform this exercise if it causes pain. Consult with your medical doctor or physical therapist if you have persistent shoulder or arm pain.