The Neck

Why is neck length so important?  Neck pain seems to be an even more common problem than back pain in corporate settings or in work situations where you are spending a large amount of time in front of a computer. It doesn’t help that most ergonomic furniture is not only unhelpful but can be counterproductive.  In office settings and everywhere else these days, we are surrounded by people who model poor (usually slumped) posture with forward head. Whether we know it or not, it’s in our DNA to mimic what’s around us. And last, but not least, our lay and medical experts have adopted a particularly unhelpful (and in fact, counterproductive) set of posture guidelines (including “chin up,” “chest out,” “stand up straight,” do crunches, tuck your pelvis — all of which harm the neck among other parts of the body). 

Notice the mannequin in the photo. She cranes her neck to look up. The base of the skull where it meets the neck is fine as a joint to rotate on, but the amount of curvature in her neck here is intense and unhealthy. The origin of her problem is actually lower in the back and pelvis. Her pelvis is tucked, causing excessive sway in the lumbar spine, which gets reflected higher up as excessive curve in the thoracic spine and a compromised neck curve. If you pattern yourself on mannequins like this, you’ll soon end up bent out of shape.

Observe the surgeon’s cervical (neck) curvature in the centre photo. This posture will not serve to maintain healthy cervical discs and nerves. Surgeons are remarkably able to step up to work incredibly long hours, and sacrifice comfort for the benefit of their patients, but at some point the effects of bad working posture catch up with even the most determined of us. Paresthesias in your hands are not symptoms anyone can will their way past. Surgeons have trust in their craft, and seem to readily subject themselves to surgery. But if surgery is not accompanied by measures that get to the root of the problem, the problem comes back. The plight of many surgeons is to be forced into early retirement due to injury. Dentists also receive no training on sustainable, healthy ways to bend over their patients and twist to examine teeth. A full third of dentists retire early due to disability.

The photo on the right of the Yao woman from Thailand,shows exemplary head and neck posture. Not only does she have a regal and dignified bearing, but her healthy posture also protects her neck and spinal health.

How to get to a lengthened neck: a few techniques

  1. Gather in your hands a handful of hair at the base of your skull on each side and gently and smoothly tug upward and backward. Try to pull symmetrically.
  2. You can also pull on your head itself. Your hands should be on your ears or behind them, gently guiding your head up and back.
  3. You can use the tips of your three central fingers on each hand (index, middle, ring) on the occiput to gently push the base of the skull back and up.
  4. You can also imagine that you have a helium balloon inside your head. Survey the area, discover and release tensions, and let your head waft up.

The key ingredient in all of these techniques is to first relax your neck. If you tense your neck, your hands are going to be challenged to help with lengthening. You want to yield to the push/pull of your hands.

There’s more to learn, but if you begin with the above steps, you’ll be well on your way to repairing whatever damage has happened and preventing future damage. You can learn more by attending one of the Free Posture workshops on offer this month at the St Helens Neighbourhood House. You can also join a free online workshop

Article submitted by Michelle “Mickie Ball, Massage therapist and Gokhale Method teacher 0428 223 271 – Excerpts from Esther Gokhale’s Blog.

Published by Michelle Ball

I am a massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher I do Hawaiian Lomi Lomi Massage simply for this reason- "It is the most relaxing massage that I have ever received and in turn, it is what I want to share with others." Lomi Lomi involves long rhythmic strokes as well as deep work relaxing the body, mind and spirit on all levels. I thoroughly love giving this massage. I am also a Gokhale Method Teacher. This method is based on the Book "8 Steps to a Pain Free Back" by Esther Gokhale. Primal Posture™ and alignment for Pain-Free living. After discovering this method for myself, it wasn't enough for me to just do massage. I wanted to teach people how they could help themselves when they are off of my table. Many of my clients suffer from chronic or acute pain. It is one thing for me to help people by applying external forces. But it is another to help empower them to help themselves lead a pain-free life 24/7. The Gokhale Method® teaches you how to lengthen strengthen and align your body enabling a pain-free life everyday! It doesn't involve a lot of exercises or gadgets. It incorporates improved movements that you use while sitting, standing, sleeping and walking. Doing daily movements in a way that promotes health and well being as opposed to promoting arthritic conditions, disc degeneration or worse. It is based on posture that you had as a little kid, on cultures where people don't experience back pain and on our ancestors. It is old/new information that we have forgotten how to use put together in an easy to follow, comprehensive way. Gokhale Method inspires you to think that there is something you can do for yourself to help treat your symptoms of pain. I encourage you to look into it further on or contact me with any questions.

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