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My shoulders and back are tight and sore. What exercises would help?

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  • My shoulders and back are tight and sore. What exercises would help?

    I'm planning to start doing some massage therapy because my shoulders and back are feeling very tight. This is making it difficult to maintain a soft, following seat particularly when I'm jumping. As my horse is very sensitive (a double-edged sword), she really feels when I'm getting tight. This has reduced my stamina noticeably. I don't think it's anything sudden, more like soreness and tightness that has built up over the past few months.

    In conjunction with the massage therapy, I'd also like to work on exercises to strengthen my back and help it not be so tight. The worst areas are the region between my shoulder blades and my low back.

    Would anyone have some suggestions on exercises I could do to help with this kind of thing?

  • #2
    This isn't a strengthening exercise, but I found rolling around on a lacrosse or tennis ball works really well to get knots out. Warm up your back with exercise or a heating pad then roll away. Maybe even take some Advil before if it's really painful.

    I know to stabilize your back, you have to strengthen your core. I learned this in physical therapy after dealing with tension in my shoulders for months then all of a sudden PAIN in my mid-lower back.

    Also, check your position while you ride. Are riding with the infamous "trainer hunch"? In downward transitions, are you sitting up and using your whole back to stop or just your arms? Are you sitting crooked? Stirrups too short or too long? I know a combination of all these led to my shoulder tension/pain, and I still have the habit of rounding my lower back on landing to protect my back from pain that doesn't exist anymore.


    • Original Poster

      Thanks for the suggestions on the tennis ball idea. I've never tried that before, but it sounds like a cool concept.

      As for how I sit in the saddle, my teacher does work on seat and position to make sure I'm not crooked and that I'm half-halting properly and not just using my arms for the downward transition.

      I think some of the problem comes from sitting a lot at work, probably with not with the best posture. I've also slacked considerably on my gym workouts which I think has had an effect.

      What sorts of core exercises did you find the most useful when you were getting over your back issues?


      • #4
        Downward facing dog, done right. Sigh...feels soooo good after sitting all day at a desk.

        Id suggest pilates and yoga before spending a lot of money on massages. Pilates will really help strengthen your core (hips, back, abs) and yoga will help stretch everything out.

        I started pilates 2x a week 8 months ago and my riding has never been better! I dont go to formal yoga classes anymore but I used to and learned enough to stretch myself out on my own every day.


        • #5
          These aren't exercises, but Pilates stretches that have really helped me. They feel REALLY great! For shoulders: large arm circles. Begin with arms in front of you. Raise stretch your arm out in big circles, and finish with them just behind your body. If you have a thera-band you can hold, and stretch it out with the arm circles, it's even better.

          For your lower back: Lay on your back on a yoga mat (or carpet). Bring your knees to your chest, and hug your knees with your arms. Lower your arms out straight on either side. Lower your bent legs together to one side. This is the cool part: Look to the opposite side from your knees. This really stretches out your lower back. Hold for a bit. Bring your knees back to your chest, and re-hug with your arms. Stretch your arms out again, and lower your knees to the other side. Look to the opposite side again.

          I hope I described these well enough for you to get the idea


          • Original Poster

            @Actnatural: what types of Pilates exercises did you find helpful?


            • #7
              Oh gosh, lots. Most notably might be "swimming" where you lay on your belly, lift arms and legs and "swim". You have to be careful not to let your back arch too much though, keeping the core engaged. Also, reverse jumping jacks where you lay on your belly, raise your arms and legs and do the jumping jack exercise. Both are very good for butt, hips, back, shoulders, and abs if you are contracting them.

              I usually go to a 45 minute class 2 x a week and I wont lie, it sucks. The whole time Im usually mentally swearing out the instructor and thinking I might die but the results are worth it.

              I knew nothing about pilates before going. I was having some hip problems and the PT suggested it. Its really helped my hip and the improvement in the saddle is an added bonus.

              If you are interested, I really suggest going to a class with an instructor for awhile because there are a lot of tips, like keeping a neutral spine, that are very important.


              • #8
                I believe it's hammecker schlemmer (or what ever it's called) sells this awesome roling pin type thing that acts like the tennis ball but it has more coverage so I found it worked really well - if you like the tennis ball definitely worth the investment!!

                Also, standing square to a wall and letting your head drop - you must work to keep shoulders against wall and let your body ease into it to really get the stretch.

                The other stretch is the cat stretch - there's the yoga move where you are on all 4s and push your belly to the ceiling and then the one named after how cat's stretch where your on your knees and put your hands out in front plam onto the ground and sit down on your calves....have no idea if that made sense but if you google you should be able to find images, etc.!

                I had major issues with shoulder tension when I rode and the pilates/yoga stuff really works and I also did accupuncture which seemed to help qutie a bit as well - but I also live in NYC where you can find that kind of stuff pretty readily!


                • #9
                  Pilates is great, but I really do recommend the massage therapy, particularly if you go to a place that takes your insurance. Since I (well, my fam) finished paying off the deductable, I only pay $15 per massage, and it goes a long way. It makes my yoga/pilates work (which I do daily as part of my singing regime warm-up) ten times easier so that I can focus on the quality of the pose and my breath as opposed to going, "oh my shoulder hurts, oh my shoulder hurts, holy cow my shoulder really hurts and why won't my right hip stretch properly."


                  • #10
                    I have the same problem, and my physical therapist told me the tennis ball thing as well. As far as exercises, I do a bunch at the gym about every other day per the PT. My favorites are bent over rows, standing cable rows (at all different angles to work the upper, middle, and lower-mid back), and one that is really cool but tough to explain- you lay stomach down on an exercise ball with your legs straight out behind you like this, and keeping your arms totally straight, bring them back and toward the ceiling and then down, then out to the sides in a t shape and back in, then straight ahead of you like in the picture and back down. Do each one 15 times, and when that gets easy you can add weight.
                    Your back will thank you!
                    -JustWorld International-


                    • #11
                      Yoga to relax and stretch.

                      To strengthen the area - an easy excercise is laying on the floor belly down and 'swim' freestyle or 'fly' like superman - lifting your upper and lower body off the floor. My chiropractor taught me those years ago and they do wonders.


                      • Original Poster

                        thanks for all the great suggestions so far!

                        I tried some massage therapy last week and it really helped for getting rid of the knots and some of the tightness in my back. I felt much more relaxed during my next riding lesson.

                        I'm also signed up for a private pilates lesson later this week to get some specific coaching on exercises to help with my core and back.

                        I figure this will be a good thing to focus on this winter. Keep the great suggestions coming!!


                        • #13
                          I really recommend the massage. I get a deep tissue massage following a chiropractic adjustment and I've noticed such a huge difference in my shoulders/back. I actually went on Friday and got adjusted/massaged and rode on Saturday and Sunday and I felt so much looser and my trainer didn't have to tell me once to relax my shoulders and back. It really made a huge difference.

                          As far as exercises to relax, I honestly have no idea. I think my big problem was probably the 3 months I didn't go to the chiropractor/get a massage and I knew that I was tense 24/7 and I couldn't ever fully relax. The massage totally changed that.


                          • #14
                            I have terrible tension in my neck and shoulders, so I completely understand how you feel. Totally recommend massage therapy and chiropractic adjustments. One of the benefits of working for a chiropractic college is FREE chiropractic care, and I'm reaping every single reward