The 42 pound head
Last time we looked the “42 pound head”, the situation where faulty or out-of-line head positioning adds considerably to the work our neck muscles must do to support our head. We talked about how the apparent “weight” of the head increases by 8lbs for every inch that it is held forward from the so-called anatomically correct position. In this post we’re going to consider how someone with this problem might bring their head into a more comfortable alignment with gravity.
So let’s talk about neck pain. This is the number one issue I see in my clinical practice, even more common that back problems. And I’m not alone; just about every bodywork therapist I know would rank neck pain highest in their list of client problems.
Why is this so? Well, the simple answer is that our necks are vulnerable to injury. Heads are really quite heavy and they are balanced via the neck on our shoulders rather like a big flower on the top of a stem. That’s why sudden violent movements like the so-called whiplash injury in a car crash strain neck muscles severely. But far more often we hurt ourselves by awkward head positioning.
Ever wonder why your muscles ache sometimes? I mean we all know we tend to feel a bit sore if we do some unfamiliar physical exercise like digging in the garden or maybe running for the bus. But what about when your neck muscles hurt because you’ve been sitting at the computer for too long?
The answer to “why do my muscles ache?” is usually because they are tense. Now, muscles are supposed to be tense, at least some of the time, that’s how they work. They contract, become tense and then they relax. But sometimes muscles stay tense. Sometimes they just don’t relax and that’s when our body’s pain receptors kick in.
I’m not quite sure where this idea got started that bodywork has to hurt to be doing you some good. It is surprisingly common and not just among clients; lots of bodyworkers appear to believe it too in my experience. I’ve heard many tales of people being bruised by overly vigorous techniques and I’ve been on the receiving end of one or two massage sessions which were scarily painful.
Randy Barber is a massage and Bowen Therapist working in Nottingham, England
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