Pain in the Neck? Try This!
Neck misalignment can cause not only neck pain, but also headaches and upper back tightness. The most common misalignment I see is "forward head posture." Many modern humans suffer from this due to improper postural habits which result in tight and weak suboccipital muscles which hold the skull on the spine. Suboccipitals are under the occiput which is the bulge at the back or your skull. These muscles are where the spine and skull meet. Looking at a computer screen or phone can cause this "forward head" misalignment as can having an overly accentuated thoracic curve (kyphosis) or "Quasimoto" posture.
So what do you do about it?
1. Roll Out Your Neck
Lie on your back with a roller under your neck. Roll your head up and down gently and pull your chin down and press into the roller. While you are pressing your skull back into the roller, rotate your head to one side, then do tiny circles with your nose. Then switch sides. If you feel tightness, keep rolling and pressing until the tightness dissolves.
You can also use 2 pinky balls or tennis balls taped together or rolled tightly into a sock.
2. Occipital Nod or Frankenstein Screw: Isometric Strengthening of Suboccipitals.
Lie on your back and gently draw your chin in toward your chest, imagining that you have a Frankenstein screw behind your ears and that is where you are rotating your head from. Then allow your chin to come back to its original position. Do this 5-10 times while keeping your head on the mat. Then draw your chin down, as if you are squeezing a tangerine under your chin. Holding this tangerine, push your head straight back into the mat as if you are giving yourself a double chin. This isometric exercise engages and stretches the suboccipital muscles. Think about pulling your skull closer to your spine. Hold this double chin for 3 breaths and then release. Repeat 5 times. Do this exercise for a week and then graduate to the next level, Step 3.
3. Squeeze a Tangerine and Lift Your Head Off the Mat: Concentric Strengthening of the Suboccipitals
Start with Step 2 to warm up your neck and to get those suboccipitals firing well. Then progress by squeezing your tangerine and keep that valuable tangerine under your chin while you lift your off the mat. DO NOT DROP YOUR TANGERINE! Not even a little. Keep your skull pulling back to your spine while you lift your head. Don't allow the the skull to jut forward even a little. If this is too hard, then go back to Step 2 for another week.