Is neck pain your constant reality? Is its cause purely physical? Or could you be suffering from neck pain for other spiritual or metaphysical reasons?
‘Over the years your bodies become walking autobiographies, telling friends and strangers alike of the minor and major stresses of your lives.’ ~ Marilyn Ferguson
Everyone suffers pain and stiffness in their neck at some point in their life. Whenever we feel stress, our upper backs and neck seem to carry the brunt of it.
Additionally when we feel stressed, we tend to breath rapidly and shallowly and our hearts beat faster. We clench our fists and stiffen our muscles, bracing ourselves for the assault. We lift up and tense our shoulders and trapezius muscles, which in turn tenses the neck muscles.
This stress response makes us ready for the fight or
flight, an evolutionary response that was necessary for our survival. Unfortunately, this physical response no longer serves us very
well for most of our modern situations, as no real physical danger is present.
However, our perception of the mental stress elicits the exact same
exact physical response in our bodies, even if there is no need to
actually run or stand and fight.
Chronic tension in our muscles, from repeated stress responses, leads to upper back, trapezius and neck pain. If we learn instead to become aware of the emotions involved in the stress response and learn to feel them so we can release them we can prevent this cycle of stress and muscular tension.
Reading how emotions affect our body and learning the 90-second rule for releasing stress can help you learn to release the emotional tension that you carry in your neck. You can also keep your neck and total body healthy by practicing meditation, foam rolling, yoga and other forms of body-mind-soul release.
To become more aware of your neck and the tension it carries you can do a periodic neck meditation. You will find this meditation if you subscribe to my Body Window Newsletter. After you subscribe, and when you get the confirmation e-mail, click on the back issues link and select the October, 2010 issue. In this issue you will see my neck meditation.
Regular neck exercises such as I give you below, will also bring awareness to your neck and shoulders and the tension they carry.
Neck pain from a simple cause like stress, can be alleviated by performing simple neck stretches for the neck muscles. For more stretches for the shoulder muscles and trapezius muscles, see foam roller exercises for the trapezius, the upper back, and foam roller exercises to open the shoulder. Since your neck is connected to your upper back and shoulders, it is important to focus on this area as well!
It is important to understand the metaphysical cause of your neck pain, if you sense that it is due to more than just your average stress. The only way to relieve the spiritual and emotional aspects of ongoing and unrelieved neck pain is through spending time with your neck. Specifically, in foam roller exercises for your trapezius, I discuss the body metaphors surrounding the neck, when thoughts like, "sticking your neck out," and "he is a pain in the neck" actually manifest in your body. If pains in the neck are your constant reality, you will want to read this article!
The following neck stretches will also help you become aware of your neck posture,
in addition to relieving neck pain from stress. Practice this posture,
sitting on the floor, to help you learn where your neutral neck posture
is. Learning what it feels like to neither flex, extend nor rotate your muscles is important in relieving stress.
Start your neck stretches, preferably sitting in the
half-lotus position, or the Easy Pose ("Indian-style"). Take a minute to center your
self, focus on your breathing and begin to breathe deeper. Feel your
body relaxing as you inhale slowly, and then exhale. Center your head
and neck and attempt to find the neutral neck posture where it is
straight, relaxed and where no neck muscles are working. Spend 20-30
seconds in this neutral neck posture. You may wish to do this in front of a mirror to check that your head, neck and spine are straight.
Slowly and mindfully turn your head to the left, then slowly towards the right. Hold each side for 20-30 seconds. Continue to deep breathe. Feel the stretch in your neck (sternocleidomastoid muscle) as you hold this neck stretch.
Now slowly and mindfully tilt your head back as far as it goes. Feel the neck stretch in the front. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Now tilt your head down and touch your chin on your chest. Really feel the pull of the neck stretch on the back of your neck.
Finally touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Hold for 20-30 seconds. Do the same for the right side. Keep breathing deeply.
If you combine this meditative exercise with the trapezius foam roller exercises, you should feel stress relief in your neck and shoulders. Now, consider a massage tomorrow. Or, sweet talk your significant other to work on this area for you!
May your way to healing your body-mind-soul be paved with stress-free neck and shoulders!