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My Head: The Pain in My Neck

How in the world could my head be the cause of the brutal pain in my neck? The age of technology brought on a myriad of health concerns. Not only are we less active, but our posture changes brought on by heightened technology use are leaving us with a plethora of new aches and pains. Specifically, let's talk about a forward head posture. You know you have seen it on many a passer by. Even children are beginning to see osteo issues manifest that only their grandparents would typically experience. Whether we are staring down at our phones or reaching our gaze to see our laptop or computer, we all need to have a reawakening of what we consider to be healthy positioning.

Your head weighs approximately 12 pounds. It sits on a supported neutral spine with natural low, middle, and upper back curves, hopefully balancing the weight. the discs of your spine are no bigger than the diameter of a broomstick. For every one inch your head protrudes forward, you can add 10 pounds to the weight of your head. Some people are carrying around a 40 pound head. I had a client once who told me that he sat at his kitchen counter with his laptop. He would lean in his whole body to reach the computer and type for hours. We measured how far he slumped forward to achieve his position and found that his head weighed a whopping 62 pounds. The place in his mid spine where he was bending over from had overly tight and inflamed muscles around the spine. The muscles and fascia in that area had been working extra hard to keep his shoulders, neck and head up. This was definitely an extreme case, but he had to evaluate where he wanted to be in the next ten, twenty, thirty years of his life. The pain he was already experiencing motivated him to make an effort to reform his ways.

My best posture to my furthest forward head posture.

Perhaps you are experiencing pain in your head, neck or shoulders and you are longing for relief. There are many ways to go about realignment, promoting a more satisfactory posture. Today, I want to give you some internal cues that will aid in thinking about your position differently. Rome wasn't built in a day. If you have had these postural patterns established for years, new neuropathways need to be created. For some people they come quickly, for some they can take years. Do not be discouraged. Keep trying to make baby steps and glean tools from a Pilates Practitioner so that you can implement them into your daily routine.

The natural curvatures of the spine

Sit down in a chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor. Imagine the natural curves of our spine and notice if you feel that your spine veers off from these natural curves. Is your lower lumbar (low back) more swayed or does it collapse back into a tuck? Is your mid and upper back hunched over or more straight? What about your neck? Do you drop the bottom of your skull back on the top of your shoulders? Does your chin reach out word, making your neck feel short? Do you hang your chin toward your chest? Assess how your spine feels in this position.

Now, can you begin to change your current position by pressing your feet gently into the floor. You may feel your hamstrings and glutes slightly contract. Now adjust your pelvis by tipping it forward or back until your are perched on top of your sitz bones, the bony prominences underneath your tush. Try to grow your natural curves away from gravity. Perhaps you can imagine a large helium balloon attached to the crown of your head that carries your spine up away from gravity. Now try to stack your curves over your pelvis evenly. This may mean that your head needs to shift back over the rest of your spine. Keep pressing downward with the feet and reaching the spine long, so that light could pour in between each vertebrae of your spine. Relax your shoulders as if there is warm honey melting down your back while your spine continues to float. Take some deep breaths, so your posture does not seem stagnant. Play around with inhaling through the sides and backs of the lungs, then corseting the waist gently on the exhale to support your new length in the spine. Try to maintain this rising and length for 30 seconds to a minute and a half at a time. Once, more comfortable, you can extend the amount of time you maintain the posture. You will slowly begin to strengthen and lengthen the right muscles. The pain in your neck caused by heavy head posture can melt away into oblivion.

I would love to hear how this exercise helps you. Please comment with any questions about Pilates or your ever-changing posture.

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