By Dr. Mercola
Strength training exercises using dumbbells can reduce pain and improve function in your trapezius muscle, the large muscle which extends from the back of the head down the neck and into the upper back.
Repetitive strain injury has become increasingly common. Many office workers report frequent neck pain.
Researchers found that five strength exercises -- the one-arm row, shoulder abduction, shoulder elevation, reverse fly and upright row -- can substantially reduce perceived pain.
Not surprisingly, repetitive strain injuries have become increasingly common as so many people spend most of their work days in front of computers. According to a recent Danish survey cited in the study above, more than 50 percent of female office workers experience frequent neck pain.
Computer work is associated with neck pain specifically originating from the trapezius muscle, also referred to as trapezius myalgia.
But, there’s help, and it doesn’t involve expensive surgical procedures and pain medications.
This latest study found that repetitive strain injury caused by office work can be reduced using certain strength training exercises, which is great news if you’re already exercising, and a great motivator to start if you’re not.
Another study published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism in 2008, also discovered that strength training targeting the neck and shoulder muscles is the most beneficial treatment for women with chronic neck muscle pain, as opposed to a general fitness routine.
That study concluded: “supervised high-intensity, dynamic strength training of the painful muscle 3 times a week for 20 minutes should be recommended in the treatment of trapezius myalgia.”
Five Exercises Targeting Chronic Neck Pain
Five specific strength exercises target the neck and shoulder muscles involved in causing chronic neck pain. Both studies mentioned above involved the same five exercises, using hand weights:
Lateral raise / shoulder abduction
The researchers recommend performing the exercises 3 times per week (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays), alternating between exercises 1, 2, and 5 on one day, and exercises 1, 3, and 4 the next.
When starting out, perform 2 sets of each exercise with 8-12 repetitions for each set. Increase at your own pace to 3 sets for each.
Depending on the exercise and your current muscle strength, the recommended beginner’s weight is between 6-12 lbs.
As a general rule of thumb, increase the weight as soon as you can comfortably execute all 3 sets. As a guideline, the participants in the study roughly doubled the weight used in 10 weeks.
After about four weeks, you can reduce the number of repetitions of the last sets in order to increase the weight.
For photos and more in-depth instructions for how to properly perform each of the exercises, please see this link.
The Importance of Weight Training for Optimal Health
Many people make the mistake of thinking that strength training is for “bulking up” only. This is a mistake.
Gaining muscle strength through resistance exercises is an integral part of any well rounded fitness program (including regimens directed toward weight loss!)
The intensity of your resistance training can achieve a number of beneficial changes on the molecular, enzymatic, hormonal, and chemical level in your body, which will help slow down (and many cases stop) many of the pains and other health problems caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
Therefore it’s also an essential element if you want to prevent common diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, or weakening of your bones (osteoporosis), limited range of motion, and chronic aches and pains of all kinds. It’s even been found to be beneficial for those suffering with fibromyalgia.
Optimal health is entirely dependent on an active lifestyle, which includes three major tenets:
Eating fresh, unprocessed whole foods,
Addressing the stress in your life
Ignoring any of these basic tenets of health will eventually lead to a decline in health, chronic pains, and any number of diseases.
If you’re one of the millions of people suffering from chronic neck and shoulder pain due to the nature of your work, either incorporate the exercises discussed above into your current exercise regimen, or start with just those exercises and use them as a starting point to work your way into a more complete exercise program as you go along.
You won’t regret it!