Updated: Mar 20
I know, I know. More posture lectures....
Before I explain how to program yourself to have your best posture using a "long neck" key word and NOT over correcting with the "shoulders back" thought, let's talk about why the position we hold our neck in even matters. It matters even when it doesn't hurt. It's like when you drive a car when the alignment is off or the tires are unevenly inflated. It doesn't really hurt to drive but if you drive like that for long enough, uneven wear and tear will occur and eventually something will break, or at least become a noticeable problem. Our necks are the same way. If we chronically hold our neck in a position that unduly taxes muscles, joints or nerves in our neck eventually we will be made aware either by pain or the inability to move how we want to.
Bones and Joints
We have 7 neck (cervical) bones. Those seven are stacked on top of each other with the commonly known disc in between each bone. The bones fit together a specific way, like a 3 dimensional puzzle piece, and they are in contact with each other at the disc joint but also have connections on the sides of each bone with another 2 joints called the facet joints. I describe these facet joints on the sides of each bone as shingles because the shape looks like a shingle of a roof. These shingle looking joints have to glide up and down on themselves in order for us to be able to move our necks.
The way the bones stack with these joints creates a tunnel or hole on each side in which the nerves and blood vessels travel through. When someone has a "pinched nerve" it is often in this area and there is pain traveling down the arm.
This is What Happens to The Joints When You Slouch
When we "slouch" or relax into a upper trunk flexed position with the mid neck in an extended position we smash these facet or shingle joints down on themselves and make the tunnels for the nerves smaller.
Just by relaxing into that position we create closing down and compression of those joints and spaces. This compromises circulation and can lead to stiffening of the tissue to feel stuck in this position. Like the bad tire pressure, it may not hurt now or for a very long time but it is causing breakdown nonetheless.
Here I am going from slouched and compressing my sensitive neck to up tall and longer neck into good alignment.
In order for muscles to function how they are supposed to and not have pain they have to maintain their ideal length. If they are too short we feel stiff and have limited movement in a specific direction. If they are too long or in a lengthened position they can become inhibited, or less able to be active and do their job.
We have many layers of muscles in the neck. The layer most people are aware of is the layer we can see that would be the outer layer. These muscles are responsible for moving the neck. Muscles like the trapezius are in this layer.
A lesser commonly known muscle group or layer is the suboccipital muscles or the "upper cervical" muscles.
This is What Happens to The Muscles When You Slouch
When we "slouch" or relax into an upper trunk flexed position with the upper neck in and extended position we hang out in a position that shortens those two large muscles and muscle groups. Shortened muscles tend to get stiff and sensitive. This is usually the point where the person notices there is something off and feel they need to stretch or change positions. If you've waited until you have pain to move, you've waited too long.
Its like your grandmother told you when you made a sour face. Your going to stay that way if you don't be careful. She was right. When we slouch, we are going to stay that way if we are not careful.
Let's think long neck, open those joint spaces, and lengthen those suboccipital muscles.
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