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Do You Have a Pain in Your Neck?

Mylohyoid muscle visible right under jaw

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There is a 16-25% chance that you had neck pain in the past year, particularly if you’re a woman. It’s not you though, it’s your tension. If you get your neck adjusted but the soft tissue is chronically tight, it will just go back out. A neck that became tight over the years from stress, poor posture, accidents, or sports has formed scar tissue. The nice loose neck you had as a kid is now a tight post.

A loose neck will often self-correct. A client of mine told me that one day in kickboxing class, she felt something “tweak in her neck,” as she put it. But she stretched and kept moving and it immediately got better because her soft tissue was no longer tight.

The neck is an interesting structure. Seven vertebrae allow for significant movement, and your neck muscles are designed to turn your head, not constantly hold it up. The head weighs in at 11 pounds, so when the head is not sitting directly above the shoulders, the neck ends up doing a job it’s not meant to do. Try holding 11 pounds out at the end of your arm. See how long you can do it.

Your neck does not have the muscle mass of your legs, but you can develop more connective tissue in the neck from holding your head if it’s sticking forward. Pulling it back only creates more tension. That was the problem my kickboxing client had. She had quite a thick, short neck before Rolfing.  After Rolfing and releasing the tension in her neck (and shoulders), her neck is actually thinner and a bit longer.

If you’re like most people, your neck muscles are doing another unintended job: holding your shoulders up. If your collar bones aren’t horizontal, your neck is over-worked, and you’re probably holding your breath. Clients continually tell me that after their shoulders drop from a few sessions of Rolfing, they realize they were habitually holding their breath—and holding up their shoulders.

When I get referrals from doctors and dentists for head-pain problems, the neck is usually the cause of it. Every person I have seen with chronic headaches or TMJ had a tight neck. Getting their necks to release was usually the key to getting rid of their pain. There are many great alternative therapies available, but Rolfing may be what gets your neck to release. Call me if you have questions.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advance Rolfer, www.align.org, 265.8440.

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