Relief for Headaches, Neck Tension and Upper back Niggles

Here are some neck stretches for dressage riders to help prevent pain and improve posture.

Back and neck pain is a common experience for many and can be triggered both on and off the horse. Try these simple neck stretches for dressage riders to help balance out your posture and prevent those little niggles popping up in the future.

Most of us have experienced neck and back stiffness at one time or another and that sharp burning sensation when a muscle spasms can really be quite debilitating. The good news is that there are ways to get relief and like most things prevention is always key.

Poor posture can put unwanted strain and tension into muscles and pull you out of alignment. Rounded upper body and forward head posture creates strain through the shoulder blades and neck muscles. Then hop on the horse and do some sitting trot while your bodies alignment is out of sorts, puts certain areas under stress.

So next time you feel your upper body posture getting pulled into the wrong direction, or you feel your neck starting to really get tight, try these neck stretches and exercises out before you add the horses movement to the equation.

I have included both neck stretching and strengthening exercises specific to dressage riders to help rebalance the upper body and improve posture too. Because the body needs both to help counteract the forces pulling it out of alignment.

Do these 3 times per week to make a difference in your posture, or just when you feel you need to rebalance and reset with your alignment after a long day at a desk or driving.

Please note that these neck stretches are for people without existing back or neck conditions. They should not cause any pain when done correctly and always listen to your body and go with a side of caution to begin with.

This article includes 7 easy exercises to improve neck alignment and upper body strength and stability.

 

Neck stretches and Exercises for improved posture

1. Align your Neck & Shoulders

To find this position go to a wall with your arms stretched out to the side with your palms facing out.

Roll your shoulders up, move them back, then move your shoulder blades down your back, tuck your chin slightly.

Lengthening the back of your neck, work towards bringing your ears in line with your shoulders.

Then imagine a string attached to the crown of your head is pulling you up to the ceiling.

Try holding this for 60 secs and repeating 3-4 times.

When walking away from the wall, try and maintain this neutral position with your posture and alignment.

 

2. Wall shoulder clock

Standing close to the wall, reach your right arm up, palm on the wall at 11 o’clock. Adjust your feet if you need so that you can maintain this position.

Then walk your arm back slowly, to a point where you feel a stretch across the right side of your chest. (For many, this is somewhere around two o’clock, see next image.)  If you can’t quite move it back or you experience tingling or numbness, it may help to step a little farther away from the wall, and/or bend your elbow slightly.

Try holding your arm at both the 11 o’clock position followed then by the two o’clock position for 1 minute each side. Then repeat each side again 3 times.

 

3. Strap chest stretch

This stretches the chest and strengthens the rhomboids and posterior deltoids: muscles that help to keep the shoulders aligned.

Take a hold of a teatowel or resistance band behind your back, close your fists with your thumbs down.

Then roll your shoulder back and squeeze shoulder blades together and down.

Keeping your wrists flat and your collarbones broad exhale to draw your belly in and lift your arms behind you, slowly lower, repeat x 8-10.

Try not to pop your ribs or arch your back. Focus on just getting the stretch through the shoulders and the strengthening through upper back.

 

4. Neck retraction

Standing in neutral position wrap a towel around your neck and pull the towel forward and down.

On your exhale, tuck your chin in and move your neck back against the towel, bringing your head and neck an inch or two back, repeat x 5

Focus on keeping your torso neutral and just working on your neck alignment and position.

 

5. ATY strengthening

First Position A – Lying prone (on belly), squeeze your feet together and squeeze your glutes.

Draw belly in and lift chest up while keeping neck aligned and eyes down.

Move your arms back by your sides and rotate your hands out with thumbs pointing up, imagine your body is making the letter A.

Then pulse your arms 20 times very quickly. Rest and then repeat a further 5 times.

 

ATY strengthening

Second Position T – Lying prone (on belly), squeeze your feet together and squeeze your glutes.

Draw belly in and lift chest up while keeping neck aligned and eyes down.

Move your arms wide so they are aligned with your shoulders and thumbs pointing up. Imagine your body is making the letter T

Then pulse your arms 20 times very quickly. Rest and then repeat a further 5 times.

 

ATY strengthening

Thirds Position Y – Lying prone (on belly), squeeze your feet together and squeeze your glutes.

Draw belly in and lift chest up while keeping neck aligned and eyes down.

Move your arms out in front of you 45 degrees or to 10 oclock and 2 o’clock. Keep thumbs pointing up, imagine your body is making the letter Y

Then pulse your arms 20 times very quickly. Rest and then repeat a further 5 times.

 

So there you have some great neck stretches for dressage riders to help prevent niggles and pain and improve your overall posture and alignment. Consistency is key and paying attention to your daily habits and environment you place your body in each day.

Be aware of how you sit, how you move and how you stand daily and put in the effort to correct and realign your body. The more work you put in off the horse the more results you will see in the saddle.

Enjoy!

 

Want more stretching you can do to help your posture? Check out these articles.

Glute Strengthening Exercises For Riders

5 Stretches That Every Dressage Rider Should Do

6 Dressage Exercises To Help Improve Your Riding Posture

Stretches For Riders With Tight Shoulders And Upper Back

Yoga For Dressage Riders 

Beginners Yoga For Dressage Riders

Yoga for dressage riders to help hip mobility

Dressage riders reaction time

 

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