Problem-solving stretches: Reversing the baby-wearing slouch

  • The shoulder shrug, from left: Step 1: Locate sore spot with opposite hand. Step 2: Lift and extend same-side arm straight out. Step 3: Continue bringing arm up and rest wrist on head, relieving tension in shoulder. Rest your arm in this relaxed position for at least two minutes. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Step 2: Lift and extend same-side arm straight out. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Step 3: Continue bringing arm up and rest wrist on head, relieving tension in shoulder. Rest your arm in this relaxed position for at least two minutes. STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The chest opener Ginny Hamilton demonstrates step one of a three-step chest stretch to relieve chronic headaches stemming from babywearing: extend arms straight out with palms down (anterior view). STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates step two of a three-step chest stretch to relieve chronic headaches stemming from babywearing: turn palms upward (anterior view). STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • The chest opener Ginny Hamilton demonstrates step one of a three-step chest stretch to relieve chronic headaches stemming from babywearing: extend arms straight out with palms down (posterior view). Photographed Tuesday, April 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates step two of a three-step chest stretch to relieve chronic headaches stemming from babywearing: turn palms upward (posterior view). Photographed Tuesday, April 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates step three of a three-step chest stretch to relieve chronic headaches stemming from babywearing: bring arms backward, shortening distance between shoulder blades (posterior view). STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates a problem-solving shoulder stretch to relieve chronic headaches stemming from babywearing. Steps one and two: Locate sore spot and lift and extend arm straight out. Photographed Tuesday, April 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ginny Hamilton demonstrates a problem-solving shoulder stretch to relieve chronic headaches stemming from babywearing: Step three: Continue bringing arm up and rest wrist on head, relieving tension in shoulder. Photographed Tuesday, April 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO / KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 4/15/2019 3:48:28 PM

A client of mine carries the weight of the world on her shoulders. Like so many moms I know, she struggles to care for herself while keeping up at her job and managing the beyond full-time demands of parenting two young kids. Even before becoming a mom, she suffered from tension headaches for years. Not only had her headaches gotten worse with motherhood, she now bore an unrelenting ache between her shoulder blades, as well.

Years of babywearing and nursing her two kids have curved her shoulders forward in a posture of protective embrace, almost as if she were constantly cradling a baby in her arms. Her overstretched muscles in her upper back and shoulders cried constantly for attention.

She’d heard about Integrated Positional Therapy during a workshop at Serenity Yoga Studio in South Hadley, and thought it might help. She came to me seeking stretches to use at home.

I explained how nursing uses our chest and shoulder muscles. For our chest muscles to contract and hold a baby, our shoulder and upper back muscles extend. Wearing a baby in a front sling or carrier maintains this rounded pattern. Painful problems arise when nothing we do brings us back the other way, namely stretching our chest and contracting — or strengthening — our upper backs and shoulders. Generally, those over-stretched, weaker muscles hurt more. Thankfully, there are simple tools to counteract the nursing slump.

During her session, I gently stretched the muscles in her chest and slackened the muscle spasms in her neck, shoulders and upper back. More importantly, I taught her how to do these exercises on her own. Six months later, she told me she’s still using these simple stretches daily. They keep her headaches away and her back stays comfortable, too.

Try these two simple tools to ease aches and pains in your upper back and shoulders:

The shoulder shrug

Step 1: Poke your first two fingers into the muscles on top of your shoulder until you find a sore spot. This sore spot is your reference point.

Step 2: Rest your arm on top of your head with your elbow out to the side. Turn your face toward your elbow and adjust your arm closer to or farther from your head to find a position where the same sore spot feels softer or less painful.

Step 3: Rest your arm in this relaxed position for at least two minutes. (This position also works lying down with your elbow resting on a pillow.)

The chest opener

Step 1: Simply open your arms wide,

Step 2: Rotate your arms to turn your palms forward, and

Step 3: gently squeeze the muscles between your shoulder blades to draw your arms back. Hold this stretch for at least 30 seconds at a time, repeating 5 or 6 times each day.

Pain Specialist Ginny Hamilton studied Integrated Positional Therapy (IPT) with its founder, Lee Albert at the Kripalu Center in Lenox, MA. A certified yoga instructor and Reiki Master Teacher, Hamilton offers classes and private sessions in Amherst, Hadley, and South Hadley. Contact her at: ginny@ginnyhamilton.com




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