How-to: Chin tucks

Head forward posture - Ottawa massage blogMany of us have a posture that massage therapists describe as “forward head carriage”, and that is now also frequently called “text neck”. Computer use and texting are two common reasons for this head position that strains the neck and shoulders, and can contribute to headaches, muscle aches, jaw problems, internally rotated shoulders, and bony changes in the neck and spine.

Then what is correct head posture?  To achieve correct head posture and for your neck to be in neutral, your earlobe should line up with the mid-point of your shoulder. (Otherwise described as having the mastoid process in line with the acromion.)

Correct Neck Posture - Ottawa Massage Blog

If you have forward head posture, worry no more – we are here to teach you a very simple correcting exercise called chin tucks. Chin tucks are a simple way of strengthening your deep neck flexors, realigning your cervical (neck) spine, and reducing forward head posture.

If you see yourself more like the first picture, try daily chin tucks to help strengthen your neck muscles and bring your head back into proper position. Here is how to perform them:

Chin tuck - Ottawa Massage Blog

1. Lie down on the floor, your bed, or a massage table.

2. Tuck your chin in towards the spine.

3. Lift your head a few inches off the floor, gazing at the horizon.

4. Hold until fatigue. Rest, and repeat tomorrow.

A strong neck can hold the posture for 45 or more seconds without shaking and without the chin un-tucking.

If you have a weaker neck, do this once a day, every day, and see how fast your strength can improve.

Try it yourself! How long can you hold it?

 

Bonus exercise: Here’s a video with a short and easy series of self-care tricks from our friends at Heritage Fitness in Carleton Place! https://www.facebook.com/HeritageFitCP/videos/1768751226503236/

Holding your head high

Muscle of the Month: Suboccipitals

There are eight tiny muscles that have the huge job of keeping your head up, but they can cause a huge headache too! These are your suboccipital muscles. Resting in the nook at the base of the skull, these muscles are essential to fine head movements and in relaying proprioception of your head (where your head is in space and time) to your brain. When out of balance or strained, these muscles can cause temporal headaches and pain with neck movements.

Suboccipital - ottawa massage blog

Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor

Suboccipital - ottawa massage blog

Rectus Capitis Posterior Major

Actions – 

Rectus Capitis Posterior Major: Rock and tilt head back into extension, rotate head to same side

Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor: Rock and tilt head back into extension

Suboccipital - ottawa massage blog

Oblique Capitis Superios

Suboccipital - ottawa massage blog

Oblique Capitis Inferior

Oblique Capitis Superior: Rock and tilt head back into extension

Oblique Capitis Inferior: Rotate head to same side

Common pain culprit – Eye strain and extended head tilting.

When our eyes are strained, we adjust our head with fine movements to focus better. This puts a strain on the suboccipitals. Also, keeping our head in even a slight tilt for extended periods of time can cause increased strain resulting in pain in the suboccipitals. Having to tilt your head back while driving to avoid the sun streaming into your eyes under your visor, or having a computer screen slightly too low or too high, can keep the head in a tilted position all day. This isn’t an overly strenuous task for the body, but it is for the suboccipitals. Over time they will become strained and headaches can develop.

ottawa massage blog suboccipital-group trpThe fix: Postural adjustments, eye exams, deep trigger point work.

Adjusting your position while at your computer, while driving, even while walking, can help with suboccipital pain. Any time your head is overly tilted (up or down) for an extended period of time, your posture needs to be adjusted.

An eye exam might show the need for a new prescription. Having the proper glasses puts less stress on the eyes and on the suboccipitals! Progressive lenses can contribute to suboccipital strain if you have to tilt your head back for computer work, for example. Ask your optometrist to help you fix this.

Deep trigger point work can target these deep muscles. Remember, “deep” means into deeper layers of tissue; it doesn’t mean the treatment will hurt. Deep work will always be done within your comfort level. As superficial muscles relax, the deeper ones can be more readily accessed, and when we get access to the suboccipitals, we can relieve the trigger points causing headaches.

Strengthening your deep neck flexors, as we saw in this recent post on chin tucks, will help balance the musculature of the front and back of the neck and decrease any tendency you have to tilt your head back.

Ask your RMT for treatment and a self-care program to address any headaches you may be experiencing.

The Trapezius – that pain in your neck!

Monthly Muscle: Trapezius

The trapezius, often known as the “traps”, is a large muscle that occupies 2/3 of your back.  Divided into three parts, the trapezius muscle has a variety of actions that help move your neck, shoulder blade and spine. This muscle has a tendency to be out of balance due to our typical western posture: hunched over a computer for hours a day. Today we will learn about the upper part of the muscle: what it does, why it hurts, how to help it. Check in soon for the next segment on the middle and lower trapezius!

Trapezius - Ottawa massage blog

Upper Trapezius: That pain in your neck.

Actions – Bends head to side, extends head back, rotates head to opposite side.

Common pain culprit – Head forward posture and hiked-up shoulders.

Neck Pain - Ottawa massage blog

Many clients will exclaim that their shoulders are “hard as rocks”. What you are really feeling are the tensed fibers of the upper trapezius muscle that can’t relax back to their normal resting tension. This is primarily caused by overexerting the fibers. You might also experience neck pain or headaches. The headache is caused by the upper trapezius trigger point, which has a referral pattern that wraps behind and above the ear like a question mark.

The fix? Reduce ‘knots’ and correct postural imbalances

Rolling on a ball, self-massage, chin tucks, neck and shoulder stretches

Ask your therapist on your next visit to show you a postural correction routine tailored for your needs.