Self Care – Pain in the Upper Back, Index Finger and Thumb


Self-Care includes
Activities to avoid and change,
Strategies for quick relief,
Stretching for longer-lasting relief,
Corrective Exercises, Yoga, and more…


Activities To Avoid or Change:

Scalenes are used in breathing. They should be an accessory breathig muscle but certain postures make them the primary breathing muscle. When you are leaned forward so that it is difficult to breathe with your diaphragm, they are used to increase lung capacity by pulling up on the top ribs. There’s a whole post about changing your seated posture so that this doesn’t occur.

Also, this is aggravated by driving with your hands at 10 and 2. By the way, that creates risks of being injured , if the airbag goes off. Drive with your hands at 4 and 8. It’s more relaxing, safer and stops your scalene muscles from cutting off the circulation to your arms.

Sleeping on your back tightens these muscles and “puts your arms to sleep.” Sleep on your side with a pillow that runs along your torso to avoid turning all the way over on your stomach.


For temporary relief:

Wrap your neck in a warm towel, sit up straight and roll you head back and from side to side. It will loosen this area and usually restores circulation to the arms.

If you’re having problems with your arms going to sleep at night and need to get out of bed. Focus on gently rolling your shoulders around and moving your head from side to side to get feeling back in your arms before attempting to use them to get out of bed, etc. It can restore feeling much more quickly than trying to use your arms and avoid the dangerous activity of getting out of bed when your arms aren’t working properly.


Stretches and exercises for longer-lasting relief:

The exercise in this post is really great for releasing tension in the head, neck and upper back. It is particularly good at strengthening the muscle that lower shoulders and releasing the muscles that keep them high and tight.


These stretches for scalenes have been an effective approach for more than 30 years. It will be worth it to take the time to learn to do them properly and work with them regularly.

Feeling some sensation into your torso and arm? Getting some sensation into the scalene referral areas while doing Stretches for Scalenes is a good sign. It doesn’t always happen but it indicates that the trigger points are activated by the stretch. It doesn’t happen as much when you use the ice, as ice inhibits that irritation generated by trigger points. Most commonly, people feel it in the hand and upper back.

This muscle contributes to Forward-Head posture. It becomes short and strong. Once the head has become imbalanced, this muscle is supported to become shorter and stronger.

If you have Forward-Head Posture, review this collection, especially the self-care exercise Tuck, Tilt, Turn and Lift.



Yoga Corner

Cat-Cow from tableforchange.com

Yoga poses that extend the neck, like this Cat-Cow pose, are great for opening the base of the neck in the front so that the scalene done entrap the neurovascular bundle that feeds the arm.

Upward facing dog from experiencelife.com

The big changes that will come from dropping your collar bone as you exhale in poses. This mindful habit will relax the scalenes and the rest of your neck and head. If you want to play with that, try the breathing exercises listed above. You’ll see amazing results from just focusing on that a few times a day at red-lights or at your desk.


Other patterns that may better match your pain pattern…

There are trigger point patterns
that have similar areas of referral
and impaired activities.

There are many patterns that overlap the referral areas of the scalene muscles. You might want to look at these posts on pain patterns that run into the upper back, and hand.


This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began changing the format of the posts to include more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We’d love your feedback. We are adding posts and converting the old posts as quickly as time permits.


Weekly Featured Post

Optimizing Tension for
the Best Day Ever

This post explores this idea and optimizing the ever-present tension in our lives for our best performance.

Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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