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When neck and shoulder adhesions and scar tissue form from an injury or surgery, they help the healing process. However, if too much forms, it can cause pain, tightness, and weakness.
There are several ways to help reduce these adhesions including stretching, exercises, and soft tissue mobilization.
A great way to break up some of those adhesions is through Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM). This is when you use special tools to help break up the adhesions. These tools can do a better job of breaking it up versus soft tissue mobilization with your hands.
You want to make sure your healthcare professional has shown you how to do this correctly before trying it on yourself. It should never cause bruising to the area, but you will get redness and sometimes petechiae, which are pinpoint red, brown, or purple spots on the skin. This is when the small blood vessels break, and the blood comes to the surface. This is common and normal as long as it’s not a significant amount. Make sure the tool is slightly at an angle, and use long upward strokes on the skin. It shouldn’t be painful, but it might be slightly uncomfortable. You can do this for about 10-15 seconds in each area, and move along the surface you are working on. The total time should only be 3-5 minutes.
Once you have loosened up and/or broken up the adhesions with this technique, you want to stretch out the muscles to help the fibers get back in alignment. For the neck and shoulder you can do the following stretches.
The first is a posterior capsule stretch, which also helps stretch the rhomboid muscles. Bring the arm you want to stretch out in front of you, and then across your body. Use your other hand to put some pressure on it for a stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and do it three times on each side.
The next stretch is for the rhomboid muscles. Clasp your hands together straight out in front of you. Rotate your arms to one side, and then rotate back to the other side. You can hold on each side for 5-10 seconds and do 5 on each side.
Then you will stretch your triceps muscles. Take the arm you want to stretch and reach up into the air. Then bend at your elbow, and bring your hand behind your shoulder. Use your other hand to push gentle back for more of a stretch. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, and do three on each side.
Now you will stretch your neck muscles. Place your hand under your thigh to keep your shoulder down, then side bend your head to the opposite side and gently put pressure with your other hand to get a stretch through your trapezius muscles. Hold these for 30 seconds and perform 3 times on each side.
The final stretch is going to be for your levator scapulae muscle. This is the muscle that is used when you shrug your shoulders, and they can get overworked when you are stressed out. Take your arm on the side of the pain and place it above and behind your shoulder. Then take your opposite arm and place on top and slightly behind your head. Look down towards the opposite knee of the pain and apply gentle pressure for a good stretch.