Self Myofascial Release to the Muscles on the Back of the Neck

There are a number of muscles that reside in the back of the neck.  They are mostly covered by the trapezius.  Some of these muscles of the neck travel straight up the spine while others travel diagonally up and towards or away from the centre of the spine.  Many of these muscles start in the upper part of the thoracic spine and either end up in the neck or end up on the back of the head.

The main action of these muscles is to extend the neck and if they attach onto the skull they aid in extension of the head. Because some of these muscles travel diagonally they will also aid in rotation of the spine.  Therefore, when releasing these muscles, a rotation of the neck will provide a little more stretch.

Depending on the muscle involved pain can be referred to the neck, the top of the skull, behind the eyes.

These muscles can become over worked from head forward postures or from lifting heavy weights off the floor while hyperextending the neck.  Straining the neck to lift the weight up. These muscles are often associated with upper cervical joint dysfunctions and a hypomobile thoracic spine.  It is also important to check the muscles of the front of the neck as well.

There are a number of ways to release these muscles.  Acupuncture,  Active Release Techniques, dermal traction (cupping) instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation,  along with changing movement habits.

Self myofascial release of the muscles on the back of the neck.

There are a couple of ways to release these muscles on your own. You can use a ball or half ball help you with this.  Look up slightly and place the ball anywhere  from the base of the skull or down the back of the neck.  You can even extend this down into the upper back.  You will have press down through the trapezius muscle. Once you have made contact with the muscle bring your chin down towards your chest.  You will feel tension pulling on the ball resist this tension by directing your pressure in the opposite direction.

To get a little more out of this movement slightly turn your head left or right and feel the tension.  When turning make sure you maintain contact in the same spot.  Feel the tension and hold for 30 seconds to a minute twice a day.

Neck Circles (CARs) for neck mobility

This is another one of my exercises that I give to athletes/patients in the controlled articular rotations (CARs) category. The training method and acronym is popularized by Dr Andreo Spina. It was taught to me at a Functional Range Conditioning course in Winnipeg.  I call them “circles” to my patients because it’s easier for them to understand.  What I like about CARs is that they are easy, yet challenging, and expose to my athletes areas of mobility that they are lacking in.  I recommend performing this exercise on a daily basis to help self assess your mobility.


Neck Circles (CARs)

The intent of this exercise is to actively pull the neck through it’s full range of motion. Challenging all angles that the neck can move through. Scribing out the largest circle possible with your neck.

Imagine, as you perform the exercise, that you are fighting against an invisible person trying to push you away from your end range of motion.  Often, when athletes are performing this move, they miss part of the circle. They cut the circle short when they bring the neck behind the shoulders.  To maximize the range of motion, as you get your ear to your shoulder reach the head back as far was you can before you start to look upwards.

Take 30 seconds to a minute to perform one rep repetition. repeat multiple times a day.

Pinching pain, tingling/numbness, and dizziness are not desirable.

Dr Notley

Take Control and Own Your Spine

You have the ability manage your spine

 What does it mean to own your spine?

It is quoted, in the research journals, that 80% of people will experience back pain at some point in their lifetime.  Back pain, therefore, a very big problem in our society.  This pain affects the life of the person both financially and socially. Our economy and healthcare system is also stressed because of this problem.

We are often told that our spine is inherently weak. Since we are descended from quadrupeds our spine isn’t built to be upright. Doctors may have been told you that your spine is “broken”. X-rays and MRIs show that your spine is degenerating and you have been told that if you don’t do anything about it you will end up in a wheel chair.  We may have been told that back pain is genetic and since one of our family members had back pain that’s why we have it.These all sound very scary. It also sounds like we have no control over our back. You may already feel hopeless and helpless.

You may have already felt that you have to take drastic measures by having surgery or you have been told that you need a long drawn out treatment plan to get yourself better.

Let me tell you something.  Your spine is a strong and robust structure.  It is supported by strong ligaments and strong muscles.   You actually have the ability to take control over your back pain.  You can own your spine.  It doesn’t control you. You control it.  Rather than taking a passive approach to your back pain and either living with it or just resting you need to feed it with what it needs. Movement! More specifically, the right type and amount of movement.

What “own your spine” means to me is that we have the control over it.  But what you need to do is educate yourself about it.  Learn what helps and how you can help it. These options might be exercise (bod weight, weights, yoga, pilates),  treatment from a healthcare professional (Chiropractor, Athletic Therapist, etc), changing your eating habits or managing you physical/mental stress.

Search for the hashtag #OwnYourSpine on instagram, facebook or twitter.  You will see videos of workouts that I perform, exercises that I give patients, research about the spine and treatments. If you want to share yourself being active, eating well, or managing your stress add the hashtag to your post. I’d love to follow your journey.

Dr Notley

Winnipeg Chiropractor and Athletic Therapist