Everyone has neck pain or knows someone who has a stiff or sore neck. There are many reasons for ongoing neck problems ranging from inherited tendencies, poor posture, occupational positions, sporting activities or stress. If you are a worrier and in a relatively constant state of anxiety or are someone who is experiencing significant stress over a brief or extended period of time you will generally have more muscle tension and therefore more pain in the neck. This is because there are a lot more neurological connections between the emotional centres of the brain and the muscles of the neck, jaw and shoulders than any other muscles in the body.
Many of the muscles in the neck start at or between the shoulders, so any tension in the shoulders or upper back will have a direct effect on the neck. Commonly, this is because our posture is awry. If our shoulders and/or our upper back are dragging forward this puts a lot of strain in the muscles of our upper back and shoulders. This tension goes up into the neck. Another thing that happens is when we slouch forward, our head tilts back on our neck causing compression of the vertebrae and tightening of the muscles of the neck. These tight muscles will, in turn, drag on the base of the skull commonly causing headaches.
The other main reason you may have ongoing neck problems is if the upper back and shoulder muscles are not strong enough. If there is not enough muscle tone, the muscles will go into strain and then into pain. Strengthening the upper back and shoulder muscles will strengthen the neck.
There are many dysfunctions that can lead to neck problems. If you have an ongoing neck problem you need to see an osteopath for a proper diagnosis. Then you can confidently carry on with your home program. This is really important as your neck is an essential and vulnerable part of your body.
If your children have neck problems, headaches, back or pelvic problems, then you need to have them checked. If they have twisted vertebrae or something out of place, growth through childhood and adolescence will cement the problem and they will be stuck with possible neck problems and headaches for the rest of their life. Have them treated by an experienced cranial osteopath when they are newborn and monitor them throughout childhood.
So you have been checked out by your osteopath, the vertebrae are all good and you need to keep the muscles a bit looser so they don’t jam your neck up, and you have sorted out your posture to minimize any perpetuating factors coming up from your back or shoulders – you are now ready to start the Stretch for Life program.
As with most stretching it is best to do it when you are warmed up. Warm up first with a few aerobic exercises or after a shower with hot water running over your neck.
Now be very gentle and careful with these neck exercises and if you experience any dizziness or become light-headed then stop immediately. Consult your GP or osteopath if you are worried but leave these exercises out of your routine.