By David Peirce – Practice Director
Chronic or recurrent neck pain affects thousands of people every day and many people spend much time and money on treatments directed at the neck alone. X-rays or scans may show you have disc bulges, degeneration in the joints or other scary things written on the report.
Significant research tells us that for most people, these findings are normal as we age and probably not related to your pain. We focus on the things we can change rather than being inhibited or scared by things we can’t (and probably don’t matter as much!)
Research shows that major gains can be made from strengthening neck muscles and improving awareness of neck position, however our clinical experience indicates that the thoracic spine posture and movement can often be an overlooked area of influence.
If you think of your neck as a pillar holding up a ball, you want and need the support for your neck pillar to be as strong as possible.
So, an area to look at if you have chronic neck pain is what’s below it. Stiff mid backs (think office worker) can place extra load on the neck – and it gets cranky! Think of driving the car or sitting in a meeting having to turn your torso and head to the side. Ideally you want to be able to change postures during the day. Mobility and strength of your torso is, for us, an essential part of helping people manage or eliminate neck pain.
A favorite muscle group of mine (pictured here in red) is the upper trapeziums muscles.
You can see (pictured in blue) that the outer third of the collar bone is the insertion of the muscle fibres. Rounded shoulders and slumped spines pull the trapezius fibers downwards creating a lengthened, taut structure that is certainly hypersensitive.
Because we want our eyes to see the world, we lift the head up and the cervical spine (neck) then becomes compressed and irritable (justifiably so)!
The answer lays in positioning the shoulders back but, firstly straighten the thoracic spine! Lift from the pelvis up and if you can stretch anything, stretch your pectoral muscles (chest) – in a doorway is a good one. Stretches should be firm but not painful and make sure you breathe throughout. Hold for 30-40 seconds and repeat 3-5 times a day. You can decrease the pain in your neck without touching it!
For further advice and an individual assessment of your neck pain,please make an appointment to see one of our Physiotherapists and really address all the factors underlying your chronic neck pain.
Stretching your chest muscles can relieve pressure on your neck and allow freedom of movement in your upper back.