Why Your Neck Tension Won’t Go Away
Isn’t it interesting how we know so many of our health indicators like blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, resting heart rate, etc, but when it comes to knowing how our joints should move, we don’t have a number to measure that. We just simply say we’re not flexible or this area feels tight.
Do your shoulders and neck always feel tight? Maybe you chalk that up to the weight of the world resting on our shoulders. But maybe there is another reason why your neck tension won’t go away.
Your upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles are often overactive. Meaning they are perpetually hyped up even while at rest. Your brain is keeping them “on” because another muscle or muscles are not doing their job.
Not to name names, but the muscles not doing their job are typically the mid-trapezius, lower-trapezius, and/or serratus anterior.
When I’m looking at posture and joint movement, one of the areas I assess is the scapulothoracic joint. That’s a fancy way to say that I look to see how the shoulder blade is moving against the rib cage.
Have a look at her shoulders in this resting posture example. Notice how the left side is elevated? That’s overactive upper trapezius right there! You can feel neck tension if your shoulders are not level.
So let’s say you stretch and get massages and always feel the same shoulder/neck tension. Maybe you even have some trigger points in your shoulders that never go away. This could be an indication that your lazy muscles need to be activated. A balance must be created between the overactive and underactive muscles for the neck tension to finally release.
What you’re really doing is training the brain. Very low intensity strength training for the mid-trap and low-trap in combination with upper trap/levator release tells the brain that muscles are in harmony with each other.
If you’re needing some relief from chronic neck tension, first release the tense muscle with a professional or self massage, then do an activation exercise.
Try this lower-trap activation exercise:
Activation exercises are very low intensity. Kind of like what you would do in physical therapy. If you do too high intensity, the already overactive muscles kick in and don’t let the muscles who really need it do the work. Your brain is always trying to find the path of least resistance.
Releasing the trigger points and activating the weak muscles should be done every day. Spend 1-2 minutes with a tennis ball on your upper traps and follow with less than 10 reps of an activation exercise. It takes less than 4 minutes.
The right corrective exercises will go a long way in helping restore muscle balance!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is one scenario. Please read Part 2 of this blog series for another scenario.