Now I am not talking about how to deal with an irritating neighbor or an in-law that you may not see eye to eye with. I am talking about the pain we feel in our own body, primarily in our necks. Did you ever wake up in the morning with a “stiff neck” or feel neck tightness after working on the computer for a few too many hours. Well you are not alone. So here are some tips to consider.
- Pillows: If you are a back sleeper make sure the pillow is placed just under your shoulders to help keep the cervical spine (neck) and thoracic spine (upper back) flat. This will help elongate your neck and low back. Sleeping with a pillow under your head only and not your shoulders will tilt the head forward and put strain on the discs and could compromise breathing. I had one student say that this helped stop her husband’s snoring. Worth it’s weight right there!
- If you sleep on your side. Make sure your pillow fills the gap between your head and shoulder. You do not want it under your shoulders in this case. You may need to use 2 pillows to accomplish this. What you are trying to prevent is the trapezius muscles to be over stretched with your head dangling down. This will cause tight traps and pain in the neck. You can also raise your head slightly off the pillow and glide your head back and up to lengthen the back of your neck. Always aim to lengthen the back of the neck not the front. Be moderate in this action as a gentle stretch is good. A sudden or harsh stretch can cause the muscles to tighten or spasm.
- Sitting, whether at a computer, a desk or at the dinner table, many of us have a bad habit of tucking our pelvis. This directly correlates to a rounded back and a protruding head. Once the head protrudes forward you put double the weight on your neck with every single inch forward. You may have heard of the term “text neck.” Try using a wedge to sit on. This will help antevert the pelvis to keep you from tucking. In turn this helps lengthen the back with each breath you take. Be careful “Not to sway” the back when doing this. Next, lengthen your neck by gently pulling on the back of your hair or moving your head back and up keeping the chin relaxed and down. Stretching the back of the neck not the front.(*Use caution here if you have a suspected herniated disc at L5-S1. Anteverting the pelvis could possibly pinch off the herniated portion of your disc.)
- Use your eyes to look down and not your neck and head. This takes a bit of practice. Instead of moving the head forward when looking down train your eyes to look down. You may need to change your glasses prescription if you have bifocals to accommodate this new healthy posture. The neck remains tall and your eyes do the work. Training yourself to do this will eliminate extra strain on the neck from a heavy head. Do this on a regular basis and you’ll be creating a new healthy habit that will serve you anytime while typing, texting, cooking and more.
- Stretch the Traps: If you find your trapezius muscles get tight you can try a stretch to help relieve some of the tension. Do a shoulder roll to relax the shoulders back and into a healthy position. Place the palm of your right hand over your head near your left ear. Use your hand to lengthen the neck then gently ease the head towards the right shoulder. Push down with the heel of your left hand to augment the stretch. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds. Change sides and repeat. !!! DO NOT do this stretch if you have herniated, bulging or compromised discs in your neck.
For further information on these techniques you can call Michelle or go to http://www.gokhalemethod.com
Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher 0428 223 271