DON’T LET LIFE BULLY YOUR NECK AROUND! If something about that statement resonates with you, I can assure you are not alone. Whether an individual identifies as a “desk jockey” or a high level football prospect, head and neck position and stability are of paramount importance.
While there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” posture, and asymmetry is part of being human, the optimally functioning body nonetheless is operating with the right combination of 1) mobility, and 2) stability. And while neck stretching and cervical spine manipulation (both of which are performed in our clinics) have clinical utility, the primary need for the cervical spine is STABILITY.
This makes sense when one considers that vital information is being relayed from throughout the body to the head and brain ALL THE TIME, regarding posture/position sense and a massive host of other things, besides. The muscles in the neck region, particularly the upper cervical spine region are very highly innervated compared to other regions of the body. Think about it – this is a “high security region” in the body just beneath the brain and accordingly those muscles can be particularly sensitive/attuned to protecting the body’s best interests. Unfortunately this also means that weak/under developed muscles in the cervical spine can ultimately lead to the prevalence of trigger points (commonly referred to as “knots”) in the neck and shoulder regions which lead to many unpleasant symptoms such as headaches, and even (temporary) dizziness/balance issues, nausea, and vision issues, to name just a few. Sufficeth to say, these are issues which greatly affect one’s quality of life.
In addition to a prescription of stretching/strengthening exercises and spinal manipulation from your physical therapist as indicated, it is important to have an understanding of the various subjective/lifestyle factors that contribute to the neck tension and address those accordingly. Stress is a very real part of all of our lives and we are subconsciously garnering more tension than we may realize in the neck muscles as the body is operating for extended periods of time in the state of “fight or flight”. As physical therapists treating the whole person, the aim is a collaborative effort that empowers the individual with awareness and strategies to “hold your head up high” in more ways than one.