Does your neck always feel stiff and tight? Does it feel like no matter how much you stretch and ‘crack’ your neck that it never loosens up? Do you find yourself massaging the area, only to find your neck tighten back up shortly after?
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then it might be time to stop stretching your neck. This may seem counterintuitive. If a muscle feels tight, that means it needs to be stretched…right?
This is actually a common myth that we see with the people that we work with all the time. Muscles can become tight over time if we keep them in certain postures and don’t take our body through full ranges of motion. In this example, think of sitting in a chair for 18 hours a day, every day, for 20 years and developing tightness in your hips. Yes there will be some adaptations of muscle shortening in these situations that need to be stretched (well actually, you just need to not be in a chair for that long).
In reality, are muscle ‘tightness’, or tone, is controlled by our nervous system. Our nervous system is our control center for our body, and its job is to protect us from any kind of danger. If you’re missing adequate strength or mobility around a joint or area of the body, your nervous system will come in to protect it. It does this by – you guessed it – increasing tightness in the muscle group where you’re missing strength as a way to protect your body and joints.
While your body is screaming for more strength in order to feel protected, you are spending time massaging, stretching, and cranking on an area that is craving for more stability, NOT flexibility. I know, this may seem very counterintuitive and might not make sense yet. However, if you are like many people that we see in our clinic for neck pain and tightness, there is a good chance you are overstretching and under strengthening.
If you’re not fully bought in yet, you’re not alone. But if you’re not getting the relief you want with what your currently doing, then it’s time to give something else a try. Don’t take our word for it, give these 3 exercises a try once a day for a week and see how your neck feels after.
Supine Neck Rotations with Band
Tall Kneeling Neck Rotations
Tall Kneeling Neck and Back Rotations
This is a great start for many dealing with neck tightness. However, as with any body part, your situation is going to be very individualized to you. There is no one size fits all approach when treating neck pain, and there are several factors that we assess when someone comes in to see us for a physical therapy evaluation.
If you’re neck pain has been going on for several weeks, several months, or even longer – it’s not going to just go away on its own. Don’t wait around to get the results that you can have today. We work with people with neck pain every single day, and we help them get out of pain and back to the activities they love.
If this is you, we can help. Click here to fill out a form to speak with one of our Docs today to find out more about how we can help you.