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Life on Life’s Terms
I am finally back with my promised sequel on upper back and neck issues. I apologize for the delay. I meant to publish sooner, but life got in the way, including some medical issues of my own that were discovered by my good doctors in Puerto Vallarta. My heart was skipping beats. I needed to have a pacemaker installed. I returned to Newberg, Oregon for the procedure because my health insurance would only cover it there.
I returned to Oregon earlier than usual and, on April 8, I had a pacemaker installed. It is pacing my heartbeat about 8% of the time. The pacemaker does not allow my heart to pause or skip beats. I am healing rapidly and appreciating the assist that the pacemaker provides.
I have to avoid extreme back bending and overstretching with my left arm for another month, until the pacemaker leads are securely attached to my heart. Once the leads are secure, I will be able to do anything I want and everything I have done before. Which means I can be as active as ever and never have to worry about missing a heartbeat.
Forward Head Epidemic is Still a Pain in the Neck
In January, I wrote about the pain that many of us suffer because we repeatedly place our head in a position that is forward of our shoulders as we read, drive, work on computers, text and check our cell phones. Our lifestyle almost compels this postural problem. That column discussed the anatomy and biomechanics of the head and the cervical spine and presented 7 moves that help create alignment, strength, and mobility in the neck and head. But I literally ran out of time and space so I promised to continue and expand the discussion in my next column. And this is it.
You may want to read or re-read my earlier column before you journey into this one. I am going to try not to duplicate, rather to expand on this very important topic.
FHP and Buffalo Hump or Dorsocervical Fat Pad
It is estimated that 66% to 90% of us suffer from FHP. I do not have a figure for what percent of FHP sufferers, over time, will develop a dorsocervical fat pad, sometimes called Buffalo Hump. But my own experience and observation is that this is very common. Years of slouching causes your body to develop a fat pad at the base of your neck to protect your spine. And it gets worse if you stay in FHP and ignore it. Remember what I said about repeated postural and other movement behaviors causing repetitive stress injuries? Removal of that fat pad is actually a new trend in cosmetic corrective surgery. However, there are non-surgical ways that we can prevent and repair that fat pad. It’s all about self-aware self-care.
The Front of the Neck
When we stay in FHP, we are placing the muscles on the front of the neck (scalenes, platysma, sternocleidomastoid, pectoralis minor and major and more) in a perpetually shortened position. This constant state of flexion causes a huge imbalance in the muscles that support the cervical spine. FHP and, eventually, dorsocervical fat pad is the outcome.
Here are some moves that that will help restore balance to the neck muscles.
1. Scalenes and Platysma Stretch (Marlon Brando)
Here is a video by Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up® showing a simple, important movement (that no one is doing) to stretch the scalenes and platysma on the front of the neck.
2. Neck extension and flexion at edge of bed
a. Lie on your back on your bed with your neck hanging off the edge of the bed. Find a comfortable stretch on the front of your neck. Allow your mouth to open. Hold this neck extension for 10 seconds.
b. Close your mouth and slowly raise your head, your chin as close to your chest as you can, keeping your shoulders flat. Return to the first position.
c. Alternate between neck extension (a) and neck flexion (b) several times. This is a very safe, supported way to extend the cervical spine and counteract FHP and Dorsocervical Fat Pad.
3. Self-Massage for Neck Pain (Sternocliedomastoid)
Here is another video by Jill Miller, Yoga Tune Up®, using a small YTU therapy ball to stretch the sternocleidomastoid (SCM), a pair of long muscles on the front of the neck that turn and nod the head. Note that if you don’t have YTU therapy balls, you can use your thumb and forefinger to pull on and massage the SCM on each side of your neck. Either way, do this move while you are watching TV. Don’t call it multi-tasking, call it “stacking”, doing two things at once that fit well together, which is healthier than multi-tasking.
Upper back and back of the neck
Any release of upper back muscles and any good posture moves will help address the FHP and the dorsocervical fat pad. For example, check out head ramping, rhomboid strengthener, nodding at the Atlanto-Occipital Joint, Good Posture, and the other moves I describe my previous column. You can also massage the fat pad itself to increase circulation in the area.
4. Self-Massage for Upper Back & Neck Pain
Finally, here is another YTU® video by Jill Miller using YTU therapy balls to help to create healthier tissue at the base of the neck.
Thank you, Dear Readers, for letting me drop into your lives for a little while. I hope the information I shared in this column will help you create a movement practice for maintaining and improving shoulder health.
Please also check out my previous columns, as you design and carry out your own personal intelligent movement practice. Any of the movements mentioned in my January. Contact me if you would like to have a private consultation about your neck and head issues. Remember, we need to catch the yellow traffic lights before they become red lights, if we can.
I have a special going on right now for private IMF sessions on Skype. You can purchase 4 Skype sessions for $100 ($25 per session). This introductory rate is my way of making it possible for you to work with me wherever you are, Mexico, Oregon, or anywhere else in world. Contact me at [email protected] to schedule our first session.
My mission is to help my clients unlock their intelligent, paini-free movement for better performance and healthy longevity.
So grateful to be alive and moving well,