Do you experience the sensation of your head weighing down on your shoulders, resulting in a stiff neck? Do you prefer placing your arm under your head while sleeping? Are you searching for a convenient way to alleviate tension in your body? Perhaps you spend extended periods working, playing, or traveling? If you engage in sports, do you question why you seem to be injury-prone?
The line of gravity demonstrated in the image indicates a vertical structure. While we frequently discuss the lower back, we often overlook the curve present in the neck region. Although it may be smaller than the curve in the lower back, it still has a significant impact on the upper back area. It is crucial to re-evaluate our back training and recognize the importance of this area.
In real life we mostly keep our neck bent forward/flexed while sitting, playing, working, training or driving.
Our back is mostly compressed.
Our neck is mostly tilted forward
What are we achieving in the process?
Well, we are reversing the fundamental pattern of our structure at the neck, that would have direct implications on the thoracic spine. Considering we have ligaments, arteries, muscles and nerves in the region that we are toying with; it may have more serious implications than just the muscular imbalance.
FACT: According to experts, when we bend our neck forward, it can cause the primary ligament to reverse its bend or impact vital arteries such as the Carotid, which are responsible for regulating CO2 levels and blood pressure. For every inch that our neck bends forward, the weight on our discs doubles, and when we consider the duration and frequency of this action, it’s not difficult to understand why we experience tightness in our neck. This habit can result in various issues such as headaches, breathing difficulties, and neck pain. Moreover, this seemingly innocuous gesture can challenge our physicality significantly. Let’s explore how these seemingly distant body parts become hostile counterparts.
Case Study: One of my clients had frozen shoulder, despite having broad shoulders, a straight neck, and maintaining good posture while sitting – a rarity in my experience. Upon examination, there were no apparent indications of any serious issues. So, what caused her frozen shoulder?
Answer: She used two firm pillows while sleeping, which resulted in a 45-degree angle between her neck and the bed. Could this be the possible culprit?
Learning: Ailments are unique to individuals, and it’s impossible to predict who may be affected. Therefore, it’s crucial to take care of your body as soon as you become aware of any problems.
Take a moment to examine the pictures and consider the impact of bending the neck forward a few inches from its anatomical position. As a result, the neck muscles will exert force on the thoracic spine, causing it to lengthen or stretch out posteriorly.
However, it doesn’t end there. In anatomical terms, we have something called “synergists,” which are all the muscles that assist in a given movement. Therefore, when we bend our neck forward into a tilted position, it’s not just the neck muscles that are affected – the entire upper back region is impacted. You can see how the neck muscles are interconnected with the upper back muscles, and the entire spine, creating a spider-web-like structure
The shoulder is an integral part of the upper back and serves multiple functions. Interestingly, we tend to keep our shoulders slightly forward-curved instead of allowing them to hang at our sides, which can cause other muscles in the back to stretch while the anterior (pectoral) muscles contract.
Still skeptical? Take a look at your shoulders in the mirror while standing in a normal position, and you’ll notice how they tend to curve forward (internally rotated) slightly. This orientation appears natural now.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with having curved shoulders or a tilted neck, as long as we can recover and keep them healthy. We’re fortunate to have these advantages, and we should enjoy them. However, just like a car that requires maintenance after a certain amount of use, our bodies require upkeep as well.
These pictures illustrate the connection between the neck and shoulder via the thoracic spine and trapezius muscles. Imagine your shoulder flexing, abducting, or externally rotating the arm, and you can visualize the impact it has on the neck and upper back muscles.
Let’s take a look at how this relationship plays out in sports:
Whether it’s tennis, baseball, cricket, badminton, golf, hockey, or any other sport in this category, our shoulder group plays a crucial role. We often forget that it’s a package deal – consisting of the neck, spine, upper back, and shoulder. This is because we now understand how even the slightest movement in any part of the region can cause discomfort to the entire area. Additionally, the upper back is connected to the lower back, the lower back to the lower extremity, and the interconnected relationship goes on until our last point of contact with the ground.
Having a healthy shoulder/upper back group is not just a preference but a necessity. Individuals with a well-balanced neck and shoulder typically maintain good posture in the upper back and spine. Therefore, the shoulder, neck, and upper back are interconnected with the spine at the center. In most cases, individuals with a healthy neck will also have healthy shoulders and upper back, as demonstrated in the examples discussed earlier.