It's interesting to listen to the words we use when describing how we feel about things. Expressions like "Going for the throat" and "My boss is a pain in the neck" are spoken allegorically. But are they really just metaphors, or is there some truth to it ... literally speaking.
Your Emotional Highway
There are many reasons that the muscles in the back of the neck can tighten, not the least of which involves your physical posture. How we sit while driving or while working at the computer, or how you sleep play a key role in back and neck strain. Many who develop 'head forward' posture are completely unaware of what's happening to them unntil the problem becomes obvious, and difficult to correct.
Did you know that the average human head ways between 10 and 12 pounds? And that for every inch the head is forward, it gains ten-pounds (relatively speaking) in weight, so that, if your head is pitched just two-inches forward, your neck muscles must now hold up the equivalent of a 30 to 32 lb. weight? That would certainly explain whay our necks are so tired by the end of the day.
But there is more that effects the neck than the physical forces of nature (posture, gravity, old or recent injuries, etc). There are these things called emotions that have a profound affect on our physiology.
Elusive, hard to track and stealth like, emotions can not be filmed, measured, or quantified. But oh! what an impact they have on your being, and especially the neck.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which focuses on Qi Meridians, and equates these meridians with various emotions, shows the back of the neck as being the only place on the body where ALL the meridians pass through at once. This would make the back of our necks a super-highway, of sorts, of our emotions. Is it any wonder that when we start to feel afraid the hair on the back of necks 'stands-up'?
"What a Pain in the Splenius Cervicus!"
You see, muscles have several jobs to do. They provide mobility, yes ... and, by contraction and relaxation help regulate body temperature ... but wait! There's more!! Muscles provide protection.
Let's say my good friend of many years, having buddied with me since grade-school, and having earned my trust since childhood ... decides to sucker punch me. (It's a guy thing ...) If I see it coming, what will I instinctively do? Yup... I will immediately tighten my stomach muscles (rectus abdominus and the obliques) because tightened muscles are like armor. In fact, when we 'brace for impact', its our muscles (and fascia?) that contract to keep us safe.
The problem is, our body doesn't know the difference betwen a real threat (i.e. someone waving a club at you) and a perceived threat (i.e. being afraid that someone may wave a club at you for coming home to late after staying out all night with 'the boys' ... for instance ... just sayin' ...) Anyway, I digress ...
The fact is, what we think about something translates into what we feel about it. And what we feel about it translates into our physiology (as posture or some other reaction). So if I believe I'm being attacked at the office via corporate politics, the back of my neck is going to tighten up just as if it were guarding me from a central park mugger.
But Fear Not, For Help is on the Way!
Fortunately, whether the back of the neck is tight from a muscle spasm that's guarding an injury, or tight from fear, worry and other types of stress ... the solution is the same! In fact, people do it to themselves all the time, just not as effectively.
When your neck is tight, and its making you tired and starting to actually cause a head-ache, what do you instinctively do? That's right ... you reach around with your hand and start to self massage the muscles that run from your shoulders to the base of your skull. And why do you do that? Because your body is telling you that it wants those muscles to relax. To stand dowm.To open up and 'breathe a little'.
Now imagine, instead of self-massaging your neck while sitting there at work, you are, instead, relaxing on a heated massage table while someone else does the work of getting your muscles to relax. It's not really much of a comparison, is it?
I do a lot of thirty minute sessions with my clients, where I focus soley on the muscles of the neck, shoulders and upper back. If it's a postural problem, we'll discuss it. If it's caused by emotional stress, I'll leave it up to you whether or not you want to share what's going on. But either way, getting those muscles to 'unclamp' is the first step towards clarity of thought and getting a good night's sleep!
I have a pain behind my ears
Its been there days, its been there years
From wrong sized pillows, and life long fears
I have a pain behind my ears!
I have a pain all down my neck
because I am a nervous wreck
My anger I've not kept in check
and so I have pain down my neck!
I have a problem with my shoulder
and a knot just like a boulder
I fear the worse for getting older
I have this problem with my shoulder!
I have a head-ache pounding strong
which tells me something must be wrong
the slightest sound rings like a gong
I have a head ache, pounding strong!
-Wm. M. Bryan
Dear Reader: Don't suffer needlessly. Call to schedule an appointment.