Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Pain In The Neck

I have often said that these blogs are written when themes evolve within the treatment space at Cornerstone Therapies , and this blog is no exception.

A few of years ago I wrote some blogs on neck pain, but today I thought we could take a look at the subject again as over the past week I have treated pain patterns for some pretty gnarly neck based trigger points, and I want to open up some understanding on a couple of muscles, massage tips and home care.

I often find that people come to me and talk about headaches and neck pain but never talk about the shoulders and how they are feeling in relation to the issues that they are experiencing. I find this interesting as the shoulders are so completely linked to the relationship we have in movement of the head and neck. The shoulders need as much time in a treatment as the spine and cranium when headaches are present in my personal experience.

Indeed there is a particular headache that can't really be helped without a good look at the shoulder. Levator Scapula is my favorite muscle in the body. I know I shouldn't really have one, but this baby is it! It's like a beautiful ribbon that unwinds itself to allow rotation of the head. It's movement is fascinating as it lifts the shoulder blades up as you shurg you shoulders and turn your head.

I was working on it yesterday for a few people and it was clear that if the shoulders were released first, they would drop down naturally, releasing the neck and allowing the head to come back and the ears come in line with the shoulders when looking from the side. There is no chance of releasing the neck and head if the shoulders were still looking like earrings!

Pain patterns are attributed to fascia and muscle tissue that have got grumpy. Trigger points send pain all over the body in specific directions and Levator Scapula's map is right into the curve of the neck at the back, and around the shoulder blade.

So, if it's not specific to the head, why spend time on it?

Levator Scapula is fascially linked up to the Spinalis Capitus and Semispanalis Capitis, and I have never been able to treat the three separately; they are married together and will always be treated as a  group in my eyes. The Capitis muscles are at the back of the head and connect it to the neck and they produce amazing pain through the head and into the back of the eye. Tender points are also found at the back of the head and travel downwards making the neck very stiff and tense. Also they produce pain in the same place as Levator Scapula in the curve of the neck. Not nice at all!

(As a side thought, there are many layers to the neck, as with any other part of the body, which means
that when I talk about treating these three tiny muscle bands their surrounding neighbors also play a part in the treatment and healing process. Muscles such as subscapularis, trapezuis, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid and the like cannot be separated in thought, work or actions.)

Posture is a big problem with these muscles as we spend so much of our time with our necks flexed - that is to say with our chins going towards out chests and eyes looking downwards. The obvious culprits to this posture are laptops and mobile phones. However, people who read a lot, knit, sew or do any gardening can spend extended hours with their heads bent over as well.

The reason why I wanted to flag the shoulders and neck up today in relation to headaches is that there is so much you can do at home in-between your treatments with me to help your headaches.

Stretch it away! The best thing you can do is stretch the muscles out on a regular basis. Maybe when you make your morning tea or coffee, when you are having lunch and again when you are going to bed. The video below will really help you stretch effectively.

Sit and Stand Tall. So much of this is based on posture and to ease yours out, try dropping the shoulders down towards the ground, don't jam them, just allow them to drift down. Allow
the head to lift up so your chin is a little higher and then bring the head back so that your spine lengthens. Often this is helped by coming more into the heels when you are standing, rather than falling forwards onto the toes.

Breathe Deep. Fill all your lungs with air and enjoy them expanding. There is no need to panic breathe throughout your whole life.

Be Practical Your mobile devises should be in your control, not the other way around! Bring them up to your eye level, don't bend your head to look at them. If you are texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, Emailing, it all adds up to quite a bit of time with your face planted in a screen. So lift it up and release the neck. Also check how much time you are typing in tablets and laptops with screens that are too low.

Get A Massage With neck pain it is really hard to treat at home as when ever you lift your arm up to massage the neck, the shoulder gets involved and you can't get a good release. Book in for a session with your Professional Massage Therapist who should know how to passively stretch your neck safely, treat your trigger points and advise you on your posture.

I hope all of this helps and that you enjoyed the blog. I look forward to typing up the next one real soon!

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