Neck Pain, Body Maps and the Alexander Technique

 

I would like to start by asking you a question.

Where is the top of your spine? 

Do give yourself time to answer this before reading on.

When I ask people who come to see me this question a high proportion of them point to somewhere down towards the bottom of their neck.  That prompts my next question and the conversation goes something like this:

Me ‘So, what is between the place you have pointed and your head?

Client ‘My neck’ is the frequent answer.

Me ‘What’s the difference between your neck and your spine?

Client (often looking puzzled) ‘Mmm’

Me (clarifying what my client has often realised by this point) ‘Your neck is part of your spine.  They are not separate.  Here’s the thing – thinking of your neck and your spine as separate will affect the way you move and rarely in a good way.’

This highlights an important aspect of the Alexander Technique – the usefulness of accurate body maps.  What I mean by that is having an accurate understanding of what is where in your body.  The more accurate your map is the easier you will find it to move without pain and strain.

 

Here are a couple of pictures showing the top of the spine.  I wonder how accurate you were

 

Notice how these pictures compare with the image at the top of this blog. In the image the man’s upper back is bent and his head is forward of his torso.  If he spends any time in this position (which many people do especially when using mobile phones, iPads etc) he is likely to experience neck pain.  One way he could address the problem is to take the time to understand how his head is designed to balance on top of his spine (i.e. have an accurate body map).  He would also need to learn to undo his habit of bending in this way.  These are some of the ways Alexander Technique lessons would help.

 

The reason I decided to write this blog is that I am struck by the number of people I see with neck pain who have a poor understanding of where the top of their spine is.  As a result, when they move their heads, they use far more effort than they need to which contributes to tension, strain and pain.

 

Here is something you can experiment with that could give you a different experience of moving your head:

  • Sit comfortably and give yourself chance to come to a quiet, restful state
  • Remember that the top of your spine is up at ear level
  • Be aware of the space below the chair, above your head and all around you
  • Look to the right just with your eyes to start with and then let your head follow your eyes
  • Pause to renew your sense of quiet
  • Look back to the centre just with your eyes to start with and then let your head follow
  • Repeat to the left

Using your eyes to initiate the movement in this way can allow you to experience your head moving easily on top of your spine.  You may need to have a few goes at it, just be careful of trying too hard as this creates tension.  A good antidote to trying hard is to pause, find a sense of quiet and allow your awareness to be soft and wide rather than narrow and overly focussed.  And, don’t forget to breathe!  If you have problems with your neck and find this difficult, Alexander Technique lessons are likely to help.  There is good research evidence for using the Alexander Technique to relieve neck pain.  Here is a link for more  information https://issuu.com/backcare/docs/backcare_talkback_4_2015/20

If this post has sparked your curiosity and you are interested in finding out how the Alexander Technique can help you please email me at attbridgetbarr@gmail.com or call me on 07957 981240 get in touch using the contact icons

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