Managing Neck Pain

The Effects of Gravity on Neck Pain

If we were standing together and I asked you to “give up to the pull of gravity,” what would you do?  You would probably think I was crazy, but what I’d be hoping you’d do was allow your body to fall to the supporting surface beneath you.  Every day, every moment that we are not horizontal, our bodies are literally fighting gravity simply to stand upright.  I bet you don’t go home at night and tell your spouse, “Man, I had a tough day resisting gravity today.”  But you did.

One of the effects of gravity pulling on our bodies is evidenced in Neck Pain.  As we age this pull becomes more obvious; our heads start to slowly, progressively move forward on our neck and shoulders.  The muscles of the cervical spine are not strong enough to resist the force of gravity.

Causes of Neck Pain

Neck Pain is often caused by:

  • Inactivity
  • Degeneration
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Injury/accident/trauma
  • Repetitive movement
  • Inhibition of emotion
  • Life stressors
  • Poor alignment/habitual movement patterns/ergonomics

Erik Dalton wrote, “Forward Head Posture: The 42 Pound Head.” His finding shows that for every inch of forward head alignment, the weight of the head on the spine is increased by an additional ten pounds.  Through basic anatomy and physics, he explains that a normal head weighs about twelve pounds, but once it starts to move forward on the neck by just one inch, it weighs approximately 22 pounds. If the head is tilted in any one direction, this increases the weight of the head on the spine and creates muscular compensation patterns that travel down the body as the brain tries to keep the eyes level with the horizon.

What can we Do about Neck Pain?

  1. Massage Therapy can mobilize the soft tissue
  2. Stretching tight muscles restores normal cervical range of motion
  3. Strengthening exercises builds up the weak anterior deep flexor muscles to keep the neck in healthy alignment

I have found that in conjunction with the more clinical approach to healing neck pain mentioned above, a good amount of playful, fun movement (shaking out, jiggling, releasing, laughing) is most beneficial.

Let me know if you have a “pain in the neck” that needs attention.  Together, let’s see what we can do to help you on your path to wellness.

(Note: Most of the information above was found in Sheri Wells article, “Neck Pain” from the Oct 2012 issue of Massage Today)