Head Rotation; Pain, Restriction and the Neck Muscles

Head Rotation; Pain, Restriction and the Neck Muscles

It is not uncommon to find pain, discomfort and restriction when turning the head for which many factors may contribute so let’s explore a key muscle and postural habits which might contribute and how we may address it.

The Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) Muscle: A long fancy name for a muscle which spans (on both sides) the area between our upper central breastbone/ inner collarbone, then runs through the neck along outer edges of throat to insert at the back of head at the base of our skull on the outer edges. Individually, the SCM is responsible for rotation of the head to the opposite side and flexion of the head to same side. When both SCM co-contract, the head flexes (moves forward and down). It becomes visibly prominent when we rotate the head, looking like a cord at the edge of throat, most evident in the lower part.

Possible Reasons for Pain and Restricted Movement: Prolonged periods of desk sitting and driving with poor posture can cause a rounding in the upper back and a forward head position which shortens and overworks certain muscles of the neck, including the the SCM. The result is an overworked muscle which becomes more irritable, less willing to stretch and circulation is reduced to the area.

Looking at Movement Patterns, Body Awareness and Remedies:
• If you sit for extended periods, get up, move your arms, spine and legs. We have not evolved to sit for hours and slumping places strain on many body parts. Taking short breaks will also freshen your mental focus.

• Think of the whole body within movements and the interlinked lines of force which act through different planes, front, back and crossways. It is all connected, refining your awareness of body and movement helps to prevent us from strain. Your body gives feedback through sensation, learn to listen.

• Consider that tightness in the neck may arise from muscles which span outwards: to the shoulder blades, the spine, the upper arm and chest. In short move and stretch all these areas to influence the neck. For example, when reversing a car into a parking space, sit evenly into the seat, then lift and rotate the whole spine around which will place less force on the neck. Effectively the rotation is shared sequentially through all the vertebra and not solely the neck. Try it!

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Go well. Will

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