Neck Pain: Is Your Head Too Heavy For Your Neck?
When you complain to me of neck pain, I know many of you have heard me tease you about having too large a brain for your neck. But is it true? What’s funny is the weight of your head can cause neck pain going down between your shoulder blades. How we walk, stand, and sit can increase that pain and create additional problems like pinched nerves or disc issues. Today, we will take a look at why this happens and how can we solve neck pain and other problems.
Neck Pain and the Weight of the Head
Our heads weigh approximately 10-12 pounds. However, every inch your head leans forward, the weight of your head at the base of your neck increases by 10 pounds. Looking down at your phone, while driving, and walking can increase your neck pain. When we think of our head, we should think about how our body’s whole job is to balance this head on top. If we get out of balance, the risk of falling down become very high, right? This means our balance begins at our feet and works its way up to our head.
I have spoken many times about the importance of stretching our calves and softening our feet along with how that area can affect the neck and shoulders. There is more to the story. The abdominal muscles play a role with neck pain. When the ab muscles are weak, we tend to sit and stand with slumped shoulders which force the head forward. Many times, we recline our chairs at home and in our cars to accommodate the weaken abdominal muscles. This can lead to neck pain and eventually difficulty rotating our head from side to side.
Most clinicians blame head forward posture for neck and upper back issues, but the truth is, the supporting areas of the body have led to the head forward posture. As those areas become weak and stiff, it places too much pressure on the back of the neck which can lead to spine issues, both cervical and thoracic.
Traditional Treatments for Neck Pain and Fatigue
In most cases people try to self-correct by forcing their shoulders back which only leads to more frustration as the fatigue sets in by the end of the day. Some will join a gym thinking that they can increase their strength and that will stop the problem. A few will hire a trainer in the hopes they have some cures for head forward posture. The more they work out, the more problems seem to occur. There two mistakes they most people make here. First, the more they workout, the stiffer they get, and secondly, they do not realize that a constant contracted state is tiring. Their body is in a constant state of resistance. It’s no wonder you experience neck pain and more.
At that point they may resort to doctors who may prescribe physical therapy, pain pills, braces, or injections. All of these are temporary at best but will help in the short run. The focus here should be on how to help your body stand up straight with little to no resistance and that leads me to our next section.
The Real Solution
Of course, you knew I would say stretching, as in my Stretch n’ Release Technique, and you would be correct, but I will add the strength training piece to that too. You do need to stretch the outside chest muscles and the front of the neck to reduce the pain on the back side of the neck. I will put those videos below.
The second piece is to soften the muscles on the back side of your upper back and that requires the tennis ball, which down below too. I would suggest you soften first, and take your time with this, then stretch your outside chest and neck.
The third piece is the strength training. We are working on endurance here and not body building. This means lighter weight and more reps. Our goal is to be able to hold our head up for longer periods of time. If you go to a gym, the Seated Lat Row machine or bent over row with a dumbbell or rubber bands would help. Some gyms have neck strengthening machines you could try as well. If you are working out at home, pushups, bent over rows with a dumbbell or rubber bands would work. The abs are just as important and can be worked at home or the gym. Most gyms will have machines to aid you in the ab workouts. You can still do ab work on the floor at home or the gym, but please don’t do old fashion sit-ups. Thee type of sit-ups strengthen the hip flexors and can result in low back stiffness. I would suggest doing planks, oblique crunches, and straight crunches slowly. Strong abs will support your back and rib cage which will help you maintain your head in the correct position.
Head forward posture can cause issues with your jaw joints, swallowing, and can even affect your cognitive abilities. If you are suffering with issues of head forward posture and rotation of your head, it is important that you begin solving this problem now. It will only get worse if you let it alone.
In using my technique, you are allowing the brain to release the muscles versus brute force that you see in many gyms and physical therapy. It takes practice, but once you get it, and you will, your body will feel more energized and vibrant.
Stretching is more about feeling the muscles letting go than forcing them to stretch. If you are forcing the muscle, you could be doing strength training, not stretching. Make sure you are feeling the intended muscle stretching. If not, the form could be wrong. Holding for 5 seconds allows the brain to release the muscle before it senses any danger. Repeating the stretches 10 times allows the brain to learn it is safe for the muscle to move that way.
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About The Muscle Repair Shop
Drawing upon his personal experience as a former competitive athlete turned wheelchair, obese and chronic pain sufferer, Muscle Repair Shop Founder Butch Phelps decided to take his health into his own hands when at the age of 36 he was told he might not make it to his 40th birthday. Applying balanced nutrition advice from his doctor along with a sound exercise program, he went from 315 lbs. to 180 lbs. Motivated by his experience, he then acquired degrees in advanced therapeutic massage and aging sciences to help people eliminate chronic pain. This included applying his expertise in how people age, including the effects of dementia, anatomy, psychology, and the day-to-day struggles living as an older person to his practice and development of The Muscle Repair Shop’s one-of-a-kind Stretch n’ Release Technique.
Available through in-office and virtual coaching treatment sessions, this unique combination of stretching and breath work teaches the brain to release the emotional side of muscle tension and pain allows clients to find lasting relief and healing from stiffness, aches, injuries, and chronic pain. The at-home exercises come with customized instructional videos and virtual or in-office support, allowing clients to enjoy and experience life and sports as they did before limitations slowed or curtailed activities.