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A Pain in the Neck (and Head...and Shoulders)


Severe headaches, migraines, neck discomfort, TMJ (jaw pain), shoulder instability or immobility.....many of us live with this pain, knowing no alternative. Yet, I’m here to tell you that there are alternatives. To begin with, these discomforts are often the result of our current lifestyles: driving cars in endless commutes, hunching over our computers, talking on a phone with our heads tilted.

An understanding of the actions that we do to create the pain is critical to alleviating it, and sometimes lifestyle changes can diminish or even eliminate the pain. However, it is counter posing for this lifestyle that will be most effective. This means understanding the misalignments that create pain, and then doing exercises to alleviate the misalignment/pain.

The hunchback posture is a common upper body misalignment (left):

The hunched posture is exaggerated in this figure to draw your attention to the misalignments. Notice the compression in the back of the neck: The vertebrae are compressed, not long and lengthened as they should be (right).

The problem is that nerves come out of these cervical vertebrae. These nerves enervate the head, neck and shoulder regions. If the vertebrae are compressed, the muscles surrounding them are contracted. If the muscles are consistently contracted, nerve conduction (the nerves lie within the muscle tissue) is impeded, and blood flow (veins and arteries are also embedded in the muscle tissues) is impeded as well.

There are over thirty muscles in the face and head which power all of our facial expressions, pulling the mouth, eyes, forehead and cheeks. If nerve conduction or blood flow in these muscles is impeded, the result is headaches and facial pain. Lengthening the neck and freeing up the impeded nerves can relieve the pain. We need our head on straight!