I could confidently say that almost every adult on the planet knows how it feels to have neck tension or stiffness. There are a million reasons why this might be, but I am pretty confident when I say that it is probably because we are not using our necks the right way. I think we under utilise them.
Our necks have a difficult job. They have to carry the weight of our heads, which can be up to about 5kg, and move it about in any direction we require. The muscles of our upper back and neck quickly respond to the world around us – when we hear something over our shoulder we immediately orient our eyes and ears toward that noise, so we can identify and analyse it to ensure it isn’t a threat. Our nervous system and our neck work together to do this, subconsciously and automatically. So, our necks need to be strong and mobile. And, like the rest of the spinal column it also needs to protect our spinal cord as it passes through.
We have seven cervical vertebrae, with many joints in between, making up the neck. Like a symphony orchestra, when all these structures work in unison it is a joy, but when one part of the ensemble is out of pitch it can affect the whole performance. This is very true of the neck, and quite often a single facet joint misbehaving or causing pain can be enough to impair movement and function of the whole complex.
Many of us put our necks under constant strain because we do a lot of our work and study staring at a computer, and a lot of our ‘relaxing’ involves staring at a TV screen. Our neck is designed for movement, not to remain still. Simply put, there is no perfect posture you can use when doing these activities for hours on end. Sitting for long periods is always going to put strain on your neck – it is just not what it was designed to do – or what it has evolved to do, more accurately.
How well our neck functions is largely dependent on what we do with it day in and day out. So, if you are not moving it frequently enough your neck can become stiff and tight.
In this video I am demonstrating some simple exercises using a towel to help encourage cervical rotation and extension movements. By pulling on the towel in the correct way you can improve the range of movement and loosen off stiff joints.
This can also be done using your fingers to create gentle over-pressure and improve range of motion, as you can see here while I perform upper cervical flexion. This is a great way to reduce strain after a long day in front of a screen.
If you’re experiencing neck pain and would like to find out more about how to get better, please give us a call on 03 8370 3044 or book online to see one of our Osteopaths… we’d love to help you feel good again!
Want to know more?
You can learn more about the MOH approach to neck pain and improving neck function by checking out blogs in the MOH Neck series;
- Functional Osteopathic assessment of the Neck
- Osteopathic treatment of Neck Pain
- Clinical Pilates for Neck Pain
- Building Neck Strength
- Myotherapy for Neck Pain
For more information, ideas and exercises check out our Health Tips blog.