5 Tips to End Neck and Back Pain

Tennis can be hard on a player's body. The hard surface of the court and uneven nature of the sport, which places most of the burden on one side of the body, can cause aches and pain in your neck, shoulders and back.

Almost everybody who experiences tight shoulders and neck accompanied with tension headaches knows how unpleasant they pain can be. Bad posture can compound the problem, turning minor aches into incessant pain.

Bad posture is a prevalent problem on and off the court. Next time you're out on the court, take a look around and you'll probably notice players with their heads forward and rounded upper backs.

The older they are, the more distinct this becomes because gravity will accelerate the process if the surrounding muscles are weak. Unfortunately, this phenomenon has become a more common sight among relatively young tennis players as well.

In the majority of tennis strokes, you perform an upper body turn while rotating and loading in your hips. Additionally, some of the trunk rotation comes from the thoracic spine (the upper back).

The overuse and small micro-tears will cause the upper back muscles to tighten to protect themselves. If the upper back becomes weak and tight, you experience severe problems and pains.

Tight muscles don't allow as much blood flow, which limits the nutrients and energy necessary to stay healthy. Tight muscles eventually get weak and then tighten even more. You need to break this vicious cycle.

You need to spend as much time and effort—if not more—on restoring your body's health and balance as you do on playing tennis.

Here are 5 tips to end pain in your upper back for good

1.  Focus on your posture until it becomes a habit.

Bad posture, which means you have a rounded back and shoulders tilted forward, causes an additional stress on the upper back. The head is a very heavy object, weighing 10 to 12 pounds and if its position is only a few inches forward, the back and neck muscles must work much harder and get easily overloaded.

Bring your shoulders back and keep your head straight up. Remember that slouched shoulders can cause rotator cuff problems.

2. Strengthen the upper back muscles.

Any variety of row and pull exercises will work the upper back muscles.

3. Reposition the shoulders.

Elbow curls, arm circles and so-called "cats and dogs" exercises will help reposition the shoulders. To complete an elbow curl, stand against a wall with your feet forward, hip-width apart. Curl your fingers, almost, but not quite into a ball, and put the knuckes on your temples with thumbs pointing down.

Push your elbows back until they touch the wall. Then, bring your elbows forward until they touch the front of your chest. Repeat 50 times, making sure to breathe deeply and keep the movement slow and deliberate.

4. Stretch regularly.

If you don't stretch properly after physical activity, the muscle never gets elongated to its natural length and over time will adapt and become short.

5. Release trigger points.

Tight muscles often contain trigger points. With stretching, you can lengthen the muscle, but if the trigger points remain there, the muscle will tend to shorten again. In addition to stretching, perform myofascial release to get rid of the trigger points.

Lie down on a top of a foam ball or a tennis ball that you place under your upper back in the shoulder blade area. Bend your legs and lift the hips off the ground, which will help to apply sufficient pressure on the ball.

Upper back myofascial release

Keep your hands either under your head to support it, extend them above your head, or give yourself a big hug—each variation will feel different. Experiment with the various positions to find the best response.

Roll around until you find a painful trigger point, and while breathing deeply, stay on the spot until the pain dissipates. Then roll to another spot on your upper back and methodically go through the entire area, until you can't find any more trigger points.

Keep your upper back muscles healthy and your posture straight. You will feel and look better, and your tennis game will benefit as well.

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