Neck Stretches Don’t Fix Neck Pain
Stretching the neck may provide temporary relief, but it is not a long-term solution for reducing pain or increasing mobility. It is important to address the root cause of the issue, rather than simply treating the symptoms.
The weight of the arms should naturally decompress the upper body, so if the neck is tight, it may indicate that there are underlying issues with breathing mechanics and posture. Incorporating exercise into a routine without proper breathing techniques may lead to incr4eased neck pain overall.
The weight of your arms should naturally decompress the upper body so if your neck is tight, my guess is that your breathing mechanics and posture need to be addressed. AND if you are adding exercise into your routine, poor breathing mechanics will negatively impact your goals. Some of you will become stronger or lose weight at the cost of more neck pain. Or worse yet, won’t see results for the efforts.
Zac Cupples is my hero because he articulates similar views as I do, but he presents them in an expert manner through online diagrams, exercises and videos. He is particularly helpful in this video, breaking down the root cause of neck pain:
I’ll summarize my observations from my classes and build on Zac’s points with concepts from Ron Hruska:
- Tense neck muscles during rest indicate overreliance for stability and breathing, tasks not meant for neck muscles. Proper breathing takes care of both. The brainstem area needs room to expand during breathing.
- Many people with neck pain lack awareness of poor breathing habits. Studies overlook proper breathing techniques. Inefficient breathing limits movement if chest wall doesn’t move as much as belly, even during belly breathing.
- Allow breathing to happen, don’t force it. Stop fighting yourself to reduce compressive forces and restore natural patterns. Exercising too hard increases tension, leading to bad habits.
- Avoid jerky movements that cause tension. Fixing posture with sudden movements can worsen issues with breath, ground sense, and control. Those who struggle with breath control often jerk their heads when trying to maintain a ‘proper posture’.
- Breathing techniques may vary based on anatomy (spine length, ribcage width, muscle tightness). Some people struggle with inhalation or exhalation states due to low or high diaphragm placement.
- Using arms to sense body position and location can improve posture. Avoid moving spine forward when pushing/pulling objects. Breath should fill the space between the ribs and shoulder blades. Neck clenching, back arching, head moving forward indicate poor breath control.
- Imbalanced ribcage (rib hump, flared ribs, uneven leaning) creates an uneven breathing pattern, leading to autonomic panic and perpetuating the pattern.
Remember to question everything you know, especially false perceptions of breathwork. It’s a challenge to help clients overcome outdated habits or beliefs.