A Simple Way to Deal with Acute Tension Pain in your Neck


If you have a child, you’ve had neck pain. We know, because we’ve been there many times.

You know the kind…you wake up in the morning after sleeping for what feels like 5 minutes and suddenly *snap!* you can’t move your head all the way in one direction or the other. Or the nagging tension that slowly creeps into your shoulders and upper back while you’re holding your baby just-so so he doesn’t wake up if you move, and your neck locks down.

Added to this tension, we walk around all day with a forward-head posture – carrying babies, looking at phones, even standing. All of which creates tightness in our necks from holding up a 10-12 pound head, which ends up feeling like 20 pounds once we add the pull of gravity.

The little muscles at the back of the skull (called the suboccipitals) can only hold so much tension.

Did you know this tightness can also cause tension headaches?? These muscles have a fascial (tissue) connection to the dura tissue surrounding the brain. By releasing the subocciptals, head tension may be released too.

While this technique may not cure your pain immediately, it should relieve some of the tension so you get some of your range of motion back.

A quick anatomy note. The best way to stretch a muscle is to make sure you are stretching BOTH ENDS of the muscle, meaning the origin (beginning) and insertion (end). If you only stretch one end, it’s essentially like pulling a rubber band that is not attached to anything. You’re just moving the band, not really stretching it taut.

What you need:

All you need is a tennis ball! If you have 2, even better – stick them in a long sock and tie off the end. The space will between them will provide just enough room for your spine.

Step 1: Lie on your back and place the tennis ball (or two) on your neck. Roll along the muscles on either side of the neck all the way up to the base of your skull (but not directly on the spine) shown in the anatomy photo above. Put pressure in the direction of the muscle fibers. You want to roll from the bottom of the skull, down to the tops of your shoulders. Think of rolling out dough. If you come across a hot spot, hang out on it for 5-10 breaths and *try* to relax over it.
Step 2: Sitting up tall, take your right hand over your left ear, extend your left arm, and gently pull your neck toward the right shoulder and rotate your nose toward the floor. Actively walk your left fingertips further away from your hips to increase the stretch. Hold 5-10 breaths, then switch to the other side.
Step 3: Still sitting up tall, interlace your hands behind your head with your shoulders dropped down your back. Inhale and then slowly drop your chin toward your chest while keeping your spine long, letting your elbows come forward. You should feel the stretch all along your neck and upper shoulders. Breathe here for 5-10 breaths.

Let us know how it works for you!



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A Simple Way to Deal with Acute Tension Pain in your Neck

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