The Biomechanics of the Neck

The neck is the most vulnerable structure in our bodies. It is composed of only small moving parts supported by a myriad of very small muscles fastening one vertebra to another and the segments of the column to the head and ribcage.  The head itself weighs a good 14 pounds in the average adult with nothing to hold it up but a moving column of bones and the tone and integrated function of the neck and shoulder muscles.

Why the Neck Develops Pain and Restriction

In addition to having very little support to start with, we engage casually in high velocity activities such as driving and take our kids to amusement park rides. Our preferred exercise activities such as snowboarding, surfing, rollerblading, skiing, provide further risk of potential whiplash injuries to the neck. The current fashion of extreme sports takes these risks to the limit.

When we injure our necks we don’t always know it.  Sometimes it takes a couple of years for the effects of a whiplash accident to show up. This is why the current auto insurance environment provides for a year to 2 years for a claim to be open pending the long-range results of even a minor impact injury.   By the time the effects are noticed the habits in the motor coordination system are long established patterns in the cerebellum. Our movement strategy has been permanently altered by the event and we don’t even know it.  All we know is that our neck hurts and doesn’t move as freely in some direction.

What is the Anatomy of a Neck Injury? 

How do we know when we’ve been injured?  How do we define an injury?  Typically our medical approach overlooks any disruption of function that is not sprained or broken or torn and bleeding.  Survival is the measure of importance when remediating problems.  Is this a life threatening issue?   Where is the branch of medicine that deals with dysfunctional coordination strategies?  What injures those strategies?   Any abrupt jolt that involves an overstretch of some tissue while other muscles spasm or contract abruptly to protect the intrinsic structures and the integrity of the spinal column can disrupt the motor coordination information governing normal function.  This disruption can have long-range effects. Once the motor coordination is disrupted we build compensation patterns or coping strategies.  Neighboring muscles begin substituting for what isn’t working.  A coping strategy is a memorized coordination for getting a movement done.  We are now using big muscles to do what the smaller muscles should be doing.  We notice we can’t turn our head without turning the whole ribcage. We feel pain when we tip our head to one side but not the other.

What corrects neck pain?

Is it enough to find all the tight muscles and trigger point them into elasticity? Not really.  Muscles that are tight are that way because they are splinting a missing function.  If you use deep tissue releases to force those muscles to relax you can be left with a lack of support altogether and a vulnerability to further injury.  At best the body is going to have to put back the tension that was just forcefully removed by sustained pressure or fascial stretching.

Is it possible to really correct these dysfunctional coordination patterns once they’ve been disrupted?  The answer is YES. We need a strategy for re-educating the coordination among the muscles.

First, we need to look at all the movement potential built into the neck.

Second we need to determine which movement functions are not enabled.

Third we need a strategy for reprogramming the coordination system.

Fourth we need to know which patterns need to be corrected first.

How to Change Neck Pain

In order to understand neck problems one needs to understand what the normal movement potentials of the neck are.

At each segment of the neck it is able to Flex, Extend, Side bend, Forward Translate, Lateral Translate and Rotate.

Due to its preferred curvature in extension the flexion and extension functions need to be corrected first.  Side bending is always accomplished only when the extension function is enabled.

Because everything is being supported in gravity, the problems at the top are built on the problems at the base.  Even though many clients report symptoms at C2 (‘My neck is out of place’), you can’t change the top before you change the base.  The biggest problems in neck function, those that can send pain and weakness into the arms and hands are rotations and counter rotations at T2, C7, C6 and C5. This results in compression and nerve impingement. Trying to adjust this situation abruptly can make it worse.  Dealing with the upper thoracic rotations first enables the neck to even begin to be able to unpack the problem of rotations.

If the base is locked in flexion, rotation will not be possible. In a normal neck, rotation is enabled with the column in extension. Being locked in flexion is what causes herniation and bulging discs.  Simply relaxing the muscles of the neck will never solve these deep coordination dysfunctions.

In Conclusion…

A good strategy for correcting neck problems requires a detailed understand of the movement functions of the neck and a method for determining priorities in correcting them. More information on strategies for reprogramming the neck begins in Module 3 of NMR.  Find more information on training in NeuroMuscular Reprogramming NMR®  on www.NeuroMuscular-Reprogramming.com.

See the Video:

Test yourself for Metabolic Imbalance.

Here’s How!

Breathe in and out normally and then, at the end of an exhale, don’t breathe in again until you absolutely have to…COUNT the seconds until you feel you absolutely HAVE to take another breath. You should be able to get to 35 seconds. If you can’t, you likely have hidden hyperventilation and need to come to our next client education class: It Begins with the Breath.

It all begins with the Breath. Breathing is fundamental to our metabolic efficiency. Abnormal breathing patterns produce abnormal metabolism and a host of conditions no one thinks to relate to breathing.

What does the breathing mechanism actually accomplish?

Sarah Young of Women of Movement FaceBook group sent me an amazing link on breathing by Roger Fiammetti, author of “Respire! Respiration Totale Pour Tous”. I want to share it here for all who are interested in the breathing mechanism in all it’s glory. It’s in French, but I think the pictures tell the whole story.

Translation
Total respiration allows for the restoration of the perfect balance of our bodies. It allows the mobilization of the different diaphragms. The most well-known being the Thoracic Diaphragm, but also the Cranial Diaphragm, the Cervical Diaphragm and the Pelvic Diaphragm. These different diaphragms are going to stimulate the various levels of the nervous plexus that appear on the screen.

These four diaphragms have an expansive ability to manage the cerebral flax and the tentorium. The cervical diaphragm is made up of the tongue and the muscles of the Sternocleidomastoid. The well-known thoracic diaphragm is a domed muscle that separates the abdomen from the thoracic cage. The Pelvic Diaphragm is a big basket of muscles that ties the sacrum to the bones of the iliac and the bones of the basin. These diaphragms work together in synergy and stimulate the circulatory system as well as stimulate the central nervous system.

The Thoracic Diaphragm is a very interesting and very important muscle that descends upon inspiration and ascends upon expiration. This mobilizes the viscera; the intestines, the liver, the pancreas, the bladder. These viscera will descend and ascend and will stimulate the pelvic diaphragm. This dynamic illustration shows the mobilization of the whole lumbar spine during respiration.

The diaphragms and respiration play a role in brewing the viscera. All the muscles go into action during respiration: the back muscles, the muscles at the level of the throat, the muscles at the level of the jaw, the muscles at the level of the neck. The ribs mobilize and expand during inspiration and retract during expiration. And during respiration, the muscles of the abdomen are not only important for forced expiration but also provide a certain resistance to the diaphragm. This allows you to breathe slowly into the stomach and the perineum.”


The Common Story of Back Pain
Weakness in the back muscles causes the hips to tighten up to support upper body activities. Tight hips can cause sciatic pain and a twisted pelvis and knee pain, even shoulder pain. A Dysfunctional back muscles cause hip, knee, ankle. foot and even shoulder pain.

Pain is your body’s way of telling you that something isn’t working right. Muscles that are too tight are achey and painful. Muscles that are weak are sore, another kind of painful. Joints that don’t move correctly are painful. Â Correcting the motor patterns governing coordinated movement causes pain to diminish or disappear.

Exercise and conditioning alone will not strengthen a muscle that is inhibited or weak. Inhibited muscles do not receive neurological messages when they are sent. Exercising them develops good compensation patterns. It will help but not correct the problem.

What causes muscle inhibition?
Anytime a muscle is tense or in spasm, it causes inhibition in other muscles involved with it. Overwork, repetitive motions, or past injuries can all result in chronic muscle inhibitions that keep you stuck in old pain patterns.

The best approach to strengthen weak muscles is:
First: Reprogram the coordination to correct the biomechanics with NMR and Tullballz, then strengthen the muscles using conditioning activities. This is the best approach to correcting chronic and acute pain anywhere in your body. 

NeuroMuscular Reprogramming NMR and the use of Tuballz will correct the movement coordination dysfunctions causing most low back and hip pain.

 

Healus PathCan we get younger? Can we undo the effects of time and bad habits? I’ve always thought that we as human beings are capable of much more than we’ve been lead to believe. I’m on the road to find out…what am I capable of?

I am stumbling along a path of transformation; aimed in that direction for a year now, sometimes more on it, sometimes falling off it.  I can feel things changing. I’m stronger, more positive and happy; getting my initiative back. I’m getting excited about the possibilities of things I haven’t yet done in my life and thinking about how little time I have left to do all that life has yet to offer. There’s no time to waste.  I’d like to feel even more concentrated and committed to making myself, and my health, a bigger priority in my life.

Did you know it’s the muscles on our bodies that burn the fat?

When you let your conditioning fall off is when you begin to turn the calories you eat into fat. My first step in resurrecting my body is to put it through enough exercise in a short period of time to change the metabolic demand system. So with the days getting lighter later, I will plan to walk up the hill nearby once a day for a week. What will you undertake this week to resurrect your body?

If you are moved to share observations or commentary or wish to join us, please feel free to do so via Healus Neuro Rehab Center, info@healus.com.  We are a small group interested in pushing the envelope and doing our best to keep our eye on the goal of personal transformation through sharing our intentions and actions toward those goals. Contact me at info@healus.com and we’ll compare notes on the journey.

How about you? What would you like to undertake for you? How about a free 1/2 hour assessment in our clinic if you haven’t already had one in the contest of your session work?

Jocelyn Olivier, Director
Healus Neuro Rehab Center