Have You Stretched Today?
Have you stretched your neck today?
Imagine carrying around a 10-pound bowling ball in your hand all day. This is what your neck does for you day in and day out. Even more than just needing the strength and endurance of carrying 10 pounds around for all the hours that you are upright, your neck has to be coordinated and controlled enough to help you walk, drive, read, react to unexpected surprises, and engage in any kind of physical activity without hurting yourself.
You have your cervical vertebrae, deep muscles that stabilize as well as provide fine muscle control for coordinating ourselves in space, the connections to the vestibular system for keeping upright, and coordination with the eyes for literally everything you do. Many of the symptoms of dizziness, nausea, and headaches are due to incredibly complex interrelationships between the neck’s musculoskeletal structure and the nervous system. Because the neck is made up of such a complex system of small and large intertwined muscles, ligaments, nerves, and bones, and owing to the fact that you are carrying your brain around in it, the area can be very sensitized to irritations.
One of the most common complaints is the sensation of “tightness” throughout the neck and upper shoulder girdle. The various tensions and stresses of our daily lives can contribute to a reaction of the nervous system and muscles to “stiffen” as a protective mechanism. This tightness is a feeling that can be lessened with proper exercise and stress reduction techniques. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or is “all in your head,” it simply means that it is capable of being changed relatively quickly when you begin working on it.
One of the reasons that this self-protective tension persists is from the often limited ways we use our necks. Most people do not take their neck through its full range of motion in day-to-day activities, and as we all know, the “use it or lose it principle” is quite real.
So what do we do about it? Massage and stretching! Be sure to keep up with your regular massages and check out this short video demonstration of my favorite neck stretches by Elliot Hulse and then another good one by Adarsh Williams here.