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What is Your Stiff Neck Trying to Tell You?

breathing pain relief strength training Oct 21, 2020
So far this month, we’ve talked about understanding pain, reasons your low back pain might be occurring, and some brand new ways to relieve low back pain! This week, we’re gonna talk about your NECK (and a little bit about your low back.)
How many times have you woken up with a stiff neck and struggled to find any way to get it to relax? Just assumed that you slept wrong? (For like a week?) Or resorted to ibuprofen, constant chiropractor visits or countless new pillows seeking relief? “Desk Neck,” chronic stress and poor sleep are REAL these days … but there are so many other reasons your neck might be sore or stiff:
  • Underactive trunk muscles
  • Unstable Pelvis
  • Poor breathing
  • Poor shoes or gait patterns
  • Uncoordinated eyes
  • Corrective lenses
When it comes down to it, your tiny neck balances 10 pounds of precious material on top of a constantly moving mass of bones and stuff. Even when you’re just watching Netflix, you’re still, breathing, digesting, making sure you don’t slide off the couch, and creating stiffness and tension is actually the way your neck muscles ensure that the 10 pounds of precious cranium cargo teetering above it stays safe! This means that pulling, stretching, rubbing, heating, icing and creams often won’t work for very long or at all, because there’s a deeper issue.
Here are a few easy ways to tell your neck (and therefore your low back) that all is well:
Visual + Auditory Modulation:
Often, your neck can stiffen due to too MUCH or too LITTLE information about the world around you.
  1. Vision: Try covering your eyes for 60-90 seconds while doing some gentle breathing. Then try opening your eyes and moving them around in a large circle in both directions.
  2. Be sure to add your eyes to any neck mobility drills (eyes open OR closed!) If you’re rotating right and left or flexing up and down … look FIRST, then move.
  3. Hearing: Your ears talk to a VERY important nerve for neck mobility! Using headphones, try listening to some chanting, toning or singing bowl music in one or both ears!
Swallowing and Gargling:
Your neck also encases, protects and stabilizes your throat! By informing the nerves inside, you can often relieve jaw, neck and upper shoulder tension quickly.
  1. Try swallowing (without a sip of water) 1-3 times “on command” … if it’s too challenging, try with some very warm or very cool water for added stimulus. Can you swallow on the right? On the left?
  2. Gargling isn’t just for brushing your teeth! When you feel that creeping tension in your neck, gargle warm or cold water on both the right and left sides of your throat.
Tension and Relaxation Drills:
Often, “I don’t know how much tension I need to be safe” can quickly turn into “OK. I’ll just turn the dial all the way up so we’re extra safe.” Try scrunching your shoulders up into your ears as strongly as you can… then dropping and relaxing them as quickly as you can. Repeat that process by scrunching and relaxing your face, arms, belly, butt, and legs.
Ready for the link that ties the past few weeks all together : your neck and your lower back TALK TO EACH OTHER about how much tension to hold! So, if one is stuck or too loose… the other will reflexively tighten or weaken tissue to keep your spine and head safe! Next time your lower back hurts, try a neck drill and visa versa!
Remember to assess and reassess to see how your nervous system is responding.

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