Ouch! All this technology is a real pain in the neck! Whether you work in front of a computer, on the phone, check into your favorite spots on social media, or just enjoy decompressing in front of the TV we find ourselves with our necks tilted in stagnant positions all day. Even if it’s only for a few hours we tend to do these types of activities everyday and that eventually creates a muscle memory. Muscle memory is, “the ability to repeat a specific muscular movement with improved efficiency and accuracy that is acquired through practice and repetition” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/muscle%20memory). The more you do a task the easier it gets. So if the “task” is tilting your neck to stare at a screen for hours this muscle memory becomes easier to perform then a correct upright posture. Bad posture of the neck is uncomfortable and can eventually create tension and stress in the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM), Scalenus, Levator Scapulae, Splenius Capitis and the Trapezius the major muscles of the neck and top of the shoulder.
When muscle tension builds in the neck it is not only uncomfortable but can lead to more serious problems. Tension built from poor muscle memory can limit range of motion which makes a person feel stiff and decreases flexibility. It feels like you have a crick in your neck or you can no longer check your blind spot while driving. As tension builds in the muscle it begins to constrict vascularity. Vasoconstriction, “is the narrowing of the blood vessels resulting from contracting of muscular wall…” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasoconstriction). The muscles can get so tense and tight that they eventually constrict and narrow the passages for blood flow. “…Tension in these muscles may cause compression of a nerve the exits the base of the skull, and trigger pain that wraps over the head and above the eyes” (https://brighamhealthhub.org/that-headache-may-be-a-pain-in-the-neck). So decreasing the blood flow up the back of the neck and to the head can lead to headaches and even migraines.
What do you do? The best place to start is correcting poor posture. This simple task can actually be harder than it seems because of the amount of muscle memory built over time. Correct posture is hard to achieve when tense and tight muscles are pulling the skeletal structure out of alignment. A great way to see improvement in neck tension, stiffness, pain, range of motion, and even headaches is to address the muscle memory. Stretching, heat, muscle stimulation, and best of all massage can be excellent at increasing blood flow and decreasing tension. Massage uses compression to bring fresh blood to the area and kneading to break up congested fascia, scar tissue, and adhesions. Once, “…scar tissue is broken up, the muscle lengthened, muscle memory can reset and relief from pain starts…” (http://www.positivehealth.com/article/bodywork/treating-chronic-pain-deep-tissue-vs-muscle-release-technique). It’s important while breaking down poor muscle memories to build more positive ones by keeping your head up and shoulders down and back. If you need more
help from tension and pain in your neck or other muscle groups come by see the talented massage therapists and doctors at Elite Performance Chiropractic. We’ll keep you moving!