Arm and hand pain: 4 stretches for the front of your neck

Arm pain, Hand pain, Neck pain, Stretches, Stretching (Active Isolated method) / Monday, May 24th, 2010

Tension in the front of your neck can block the flow of blood and nerve signals down your arm. Stretching helps. When the nerves and blood vessels are blocked, the symptoms resulting in the arms can be painful. The thoracic outlet is where the neurovascular structures exit to go down the arm. The nerves come from between the bones of your neck (cervical vertebrae) and blood vessels come from the heart, joining together above the first rib between two of the scalene muscles. That’s the thoracic outlet.  It is crucial that the scalene and SCM muscles at the front sides of your neck be loose enough to allow flow of blood and nerve signals to and from the arm and hand to prevent pain and to maintain a healthy condition in the upper extremity. For more about the scaleni go to The following Active Isolated Stretches are some that I teach in my Neuromuscular Therapy center near Boston.

Lateral flexion: Pick a point to look at in front of you to prevent your head from turning. Bring your right ear down to your right shoulder. Continue to actively stretch as you pull your ear closer using your right hand on the left side of your head. Exhale and stretch for two seconds. Release and repeat 10 times. Do the same thing bringing your left ear to your left shoulder.

Rotation: Turn your head right to look over your shoulder. Place your hands on either side of your head with your right hand on your left cheek and your left hand on the right side of your head above your ear from a raised arm position. Keep turning your head as you assist with your hands. Exhale and hold for two seconds. Release the pressure and turn your head back facing front. Repeat 10 times. Repeat in the other direction.

Oblique Extension: Turn your head to the right. Lift your chin up to angle your right ear toward your right shoulder blade. Keep your left shoulder down by holding onto the bottom of your chair or putting your arm behind your back. You should feel the stretch down the front side of your neck all the way to your collar bone. Actively stretch as you use your right hand to pull your head farther back to extend the stretch at the end range. Hold for two seconds, release to upright again. Repeat 10 times on each side.

Backward Extension: Lean slightly forward and lift your chin toward the sky with your jaw protruding. Using the fingertips of both hands under your chin, push your chin up higher. Actively stretch as you hold for two seconds, then bring your chin down to the starting position again. Repeat 10 times.

Active Isolated Stretching is the best method of stretching I know, especially if you have Trigger Points or hyperactive, tense muscles. Here’s a basic routine for the muscles in the front of your neck targeting the scalene muscles and the sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle.