by Diana Khoury
Neck pain and tension is common in today’s society. It can be caused by an injury or by sitting, standing, walking or sleeping in a poor position. Neck tension is exacerbated by stress, creating an imbalance in the internal environment of the body and disturbing its normal functioning.
Seven of the body’s eleven major systems pass through the neck.* Tension restricts range of motion and inhibits the pathways that allow blood, lymph, hormones, spinal fluid, nerve impulses, food and air to travel between the head and the rest of the body.
“Physical structures [become locked] when the body fails to adapt to an overload of stress. This may result in pain, stiffness, numbness and postural distortions. In addition, the body’s capacity to co-ordinate its functions is undermined.”1Since multiple systems are affected, it is no wonder that constriction of the neck area has a direct, negative impact on the entire body and on one’s overall health.
Structurally, a stiff neck is caused by contraction of the musculature. “When the neck is tense, the shoulders rise and the chin moves up and forward, causing further misalignment and pain. Neck tension can often lead to tension headaches, a problem affecting 78 percent of the general population.”2
Chronic neck tension has a ripple effect on the nervous system. Since “the lower neck supplies the nerves to the arms, there may be pain or numbness in the shoulder, arm or hand. Muscles may be weakened, resulting in difficulty in grasping objects. The tension in the neck may cause headaches or pain in the face or jaw…Body stress in the neck area may also have an impact on nerve connections to internal organs, such as the heart, lungs and digestive system, undermining normal function.”1
Many people simply accept neck problems as a part of life, but this does not have to be the case. To decrease daily stress and support a healthy neck:
- Practice good posture. Research ergonomics or take a yoga class to learn and use proper posture while working at the computer, sitting, standing and walking.
- Take rest breaks from computer use every 20 minutes. Give your eyes and brain a rest, and take a stretch to lengthen muscles that have stiffened while sitting.
- Drink plenty of water. Hydration transports essential nutrients to your cells.
- Breathe. When you feel stress increasing, pause. Take a few deep breaths, and exhale fully. This soothes the nervous system and reduces stress hormone levels.
- Exercise regularly. Exercising increases circulation, flexibility and improves oxygen flow to the brain.
- Get plenty of sleep. The body needs rest, even more so when stressed. Sleep on your back instead of the stomach, to avoid craning the neck to one side.
- Book a massage. Research and empirical evidence show that massage effectively releases muscle tension and pain, improves range of motion, and reduces stress levels in the body. You may feel relief from neck pain and tension in as little as one massage session, yet continuous relief can be found by making it a part of your ongoing wellness plan.
This is an original article from Dreamclinic, Inc. Dreamclinic is a Health and Wellness company committed to sharing information about commonly experienced health conditions and how they may be impacted through the use of bodywork and other natural approaches. Dreamclinic offers massage, acupuncture, and Reiki sessions at its Greenlake and Queen Anne clinics, as well as onsite massage at workplaces around Puget Sound. Contact us to learn more about how Dreamclinic can help you, your family or your workplace experience greater health.
* Skeletal, muscular, nervous, endocrine, digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems.