Don’t try to stretch it out. Neck muscles sometimes spasm because they are overstretched!
Ouch, you can’t move your neck. What to do?
Stiff Neck Massage Tip:
- Put your neck and upper shoulder muscles on slack. To do this, lean on a counter or table. Shrug your shoulder towards your ear and slump your ear towards your shoulder. Now your shoulder/neck muscles are scrunched and if you touch them, they should be soft.
- Use the fingers of your opposite hand to move and manipulate these muscles, squeeze them between your fingers, squish and soften them. Even though there is less space in your neck/shoulder area than usual because of your shrugged position, you can effect some change in the muscles – without stretching them.
It usually takes a few days for a neck spasm to dissipate. While you wait – avoid testing and stretching it. But do try the gentle massage idea.
For the record, stretching your neck is okay, just not when you are experiencing a stiff neck from something like having “slept wrong”.
Next Blog: 3 Common Must Avoid Positions for Stiff Neck Sufferers
The curve of the neck develops after birth as we lift our head up to look around us and for some milk to drink. This desire for sustenance and connection begins the development of our neck curve.
Throughout our life, we are constantly looking ahead – still searching for sustenance and connection with others. Our neck muscles tighten to support the head in its too far forward position.
Or conversely we flatten the curve of the neck in a military style attempt at good posture. Sometimes this can result in reversing the natural curve of the neck. That was my problem years ago – trying too hard to be straight!
A neutral curve of the neck should include:
- Soft, supple muscles between the skull and top vertebrae. (See my most recent blog – Bobble-Headed Bunny Move, to figure this).
- A natural curve that moves toward the Adam’s Apple
Glide gracefully like a swan.
*Thank you Joan Arnold and Tina Goldstein for the “neck option” photos
Waking up with a stiff neck, the feeling of restriction and lack of motion is awful. It really makes you want to stretch. Don’t! Stretching does not cure everything. Sometimes it makes things worse. Stiff necks often occur when our necks have been overstretched. For instance, sleeping in a funky, neck-stretched-over position can create a spasm. Stretching makes those sensitive neck muscles tighten all over again.
How do I know this? I went through a period of chronic stiff necks from overstretching. Thankfully, now that I’ve learned this, I no longer have stiff necks. Phew!
What to do?
Lie on the floor; place your fingers underneath the highest vertebra in your neck that you can feel. Press up with your fingers to support that neck bone. Your neck will arch a bit, while your head remains on the floor. With your fingers maintaining this support, nod and bob your head, like a Bobble-Headed Animal. This miniscule movement is meant to loosen the tight muscles between the neck and the skull. Spend a minute or so with this supported, loosening movement while you breathe. When you release your hands, try to keep the softness of your neck, while maintaining it’s natural arch. Your neck has a natural curve that creates a supple and mobile YOU!
As the weather changes and the holiday’s approach, so does out sense of urgency and stress. Plans get made, gifts get bought, meals get consumed, and time, as always, seems to continually run out. The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year can be a blur. We all know we should be thankful, take in the moment, breath fully and with gratitude, be kind, be generous, – but what if this feels like another “should” to accomplish as the holiday momentum leaves us running to catch up – physically and emotionally.
Let’s face it – the holidays are stressful. Disappointments happen. Views collide. We can hurt and be hurt. Last night my friend Lisa was upset over a disagreement she had with her mother (holiday related). Last week I was upset over a disagreement with a friend. My son was sick. I also found out that someone I had lost touch with finally lost her life to cancer. But I was heartened to have had a great Thanksgiving in Boston with my sister in part because my goals were concrete: get rest, avoid conflict and enjoy my sons.
What are some other concrete measures we can take to stay balanced during the holiday season?
Exercise our bodies every day at least 20 minutes; if the optimal setting is not possible, at least take a walk and breathe.
Minimize or avoid eating complex carbohydrates (bread, pasta, flour based products) for one week
Eat more salad and drink more water
Take at least 5 minutes of alone time before you begin your day and do nothing but breath.
Give yourself time; avoid rushing
Set attainable goals, check them off on a list and feel proud of yourself
Use scents such as incense or candles to create a relaxing, multisensory experience in your home or office
Identify your feelings to yourself
Take the time to listen and avoid conflict – what feels urgent now changes over time