Staying mobile with neck pain

Click on the image to view this weeks video

Trying to stretch or mobilize only your cervical vertebrae may backfire

First of all, a reminder that registration for the upcoming Better Boundaries Workshop closes this coming Tuesday, September 13, at midnight. There are 4 spots left. You can find a detailed description of the workshop HERE, and if you are ready to register, go HERE.

Now, for the nitty gritty…This past year, I’ve had two major bouts of neck pain related to arthritic changes in my bones and radiculopathy. I notice now, more than I used to, all the weird things I see people doing when they have pain in their neck. That’s what motivated me to write on this this simple, but important topic.

That’s because localized movement, like trying to bend between two specific vertebrae, may cause more compression to nerves that emerge between spinal discs and vertebra. Compression is one factor of postural tone that causes pain over time.

Radiculopathy is only one cause of neck pain. This image shows how a bulging disc compresses back towards the spinal cord and the nerves that emerge from it:

courtesy of the Mayfield Clinic

You can see how any further bend between those vertebrae will not feel good! A compressed nerve root causes pain, and can also limit motor messages from the brain to the muscles. Arthritis, also narrows the space for nerves to move and glide inside you as you move around. Arthritic processes can erode cartilage and/or cause bones to change shape under pressure.

If you’ve ever had neck pain, even if it was only a brief episode, you know how immobilizing it can be. A stiff neck is a very emotional thing, affecting breathing, balance, facial expression, and vision, among many other things. It can be profoundly destabilizing.

When our bodies are sore and tender or injured, it’s not the time to extend ourselves, to “try to do our best.” Instead, we can do our average, and be ordinary! We can be more respectful of our bodies, and slow down. Sometimes living your best life means chilling the #$%^ out.

What the doctors and physiotherapists don’t know about is that when we can’t be flexible or move bit, we can find amazing new levels of pleasurable, subtle movement by doing less. Dancers who have been through injury understand this!

That’s why, in this weeks video, I suggest exploring micro-movements between all of your joints (which is expressed in the autonomic motion of postural sway) and between each vertebrae, as shown in the video. You can activate this experience by activating micro-movement along your whole spinal column instead of locally only between the cervical vertebrae.

Here is an image of the whole spinal column to feed your imagination:

Since these movements are so delicious, they whet our appetite, and we want more. We do need to take the time to shift our conception of the movement itself, however.

When we are pain free and feeling good, it’s great to move big, but when we are in pain, we need to make different choices. If possible, I think it’s important to let go of judgement about either state. True acceptance of embodiment means allowing for humanity, vulnerability, and change.

Let’s celebrate both micro and macro-mobility. Each one has its place, and each one has its special pleasures. Get smart and use the right one at the right time!

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