well, hello there! sorry for the recent longer-than-normal hiatus from blogging! I was on such a roll for awhile and then life got crazy (good crazy, but crazy nonetheless, hehe)… but I’m back now with lots of great content to share. 🙂
as prime wedding season gets underway these next few weeks, I’ve asked my thoughtful, talented massage therapist and fellow small-business owner Claire, for some additional tips and stretches to be aware of in helping to manage those long hours holding a camera! So without further ado… go for it, Claire!
I am back, and excited to share a second round of stretches and body care suggestions with the Urban Row audience. For this post, I will be focusing on upper body stretches, paying specific attention to releasing tightness and reducing tension in the upper back and shoulders, as well as the arms, hands and wrists. If you need help targeting pain and tension in your lower body, be sure to check out my previous post.
As a massage therapist, I know from experience how tiring it is to work all day with your hands, wrists and forearms engaged and active. I can image the soreness that would develop after a long day of holding up a heavy camera while photographing a wedding!
To release forearm tension, I like to use these simple forearm flexor and extensor stretches.
To stretch your wrist flexors, kneel on the floor and place your palms flat on the floor with your fingers pointing toward your knees and your hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your elbows straight and gently lean back, bringing your butt toward your heels, while keeping your palms flat and grounded on the floor.
To stretch your wrist extensors on the opposite side of your forearms, simply flip your hands over so that the backs of your hands are flat on the floor, with your fingers still pointed toward your knees. Again, lean back, bringing your butt toward your feet while keeping your hands firmly planted.
Whenever I find that I have a lot of built up tension around my elbows (where the tendons for most of your forearm muscles connect to the joint), I will try to release that tightness by simply applying some pressure into that area using the point of my elbow from the opposite arm.
Rest one arm flat against a table or other firm surface and place the point of your opposite elbow into the thick, fleshy area just beneath the outside edge of your elbow joint. Use your body weight to lean into your elbow, applying pressure downward into the tight tissues. Only apply as much pressure as you can comfortably tolerate. If it hurts at first, take a few deep breaths. If it continues to feel painful after some deep breathing, reduce the pressure.
I often use this same method to target pain and tension in my palm, applying pressure into the thick, fleshy area just below my thumb. For a full routine of hand and wrist stretches, I highly recommend this short video.
Working with your hands, whether that means using them to massage, working at a computer, or gripping a camera for hours at a time, often leads to increased tension in the neck, shoulders and upper back.
When focusing on releasing upper back and shoulder tension, I like to start by first opening up the chest and the front of the body. A lot of upper back tightness is the result of hunching and rounding forward. To make your back and shoulder stretches more effective, it is useful to first release any tension in the chest and the front of the shoulders.
Start by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Keep your arms straight and place your palms flat on the floor, about a foot behind you, with your fingers pointed away from your body. Gently lean back toward your fingers, keeping your arms straight. You should feel the stretch across the top of your chest and shoulders.
If you find that you are really tight through the chest, or you have a tendency to roll your body forward and slouch throughout the day, I encourage you to check out these posts aimed at improving posture and strengthening the upper back to help you hold your body upright, with your spine in better alignment. I also highly recommend this quick and simple video to help strengthen your upper back muscles. A strong upper back will help you get through your long days with greater ease and less pain.
Once you have properly released and opened the front of your body, it’s time to move on to giving your back, shoulders and neck the attention they so fully deserve.
I have written before about some stretches for releasing neck and back tension. The first link will help you target your levator scapula muscle and upper trapezius muscles, which are the muscles that lift your shoulders toward your ears, and are likely to be tight after extended periods of holding a camera up to your face. The second link offers some stretches for the lower back, but also provides a few stretches that specifically target the muscles of the upper back, neck and shoulders.
To really target upper body tension and fully release tightness in your back and neck, I recommend incorporating these short videos into your regular stretching routine. This twist relieves tightness throughout your upper body and this gentle, but targeted neck stretch will help reduce the neck and shoulder tension that can leave you feeling stiff and achy after a long day of work.
Thanks again to Urban Row for letting me share these tips and tricks. Take care of yourselves and best of luck for a busy, but pain-free wedding season! 🙂