Top 3 Myths About Neck Pain

I’ve work with a lot of people with neck pain, some so severe that they had to go on disability. In the past  Tiger Woods dropped out of a golf tournament due to neck pain – a bulging disc. He said, “I can deal with the pain, but once it locked up I couldn’t go back or come through…” While adamant that his neck pain had nothing whatsoever to do with his car accident, as I wrote in this post, Tiger has a bad case of Sensory Motor Amnesia.

Here are three myths about neck pain to consider:

Myth #1: Neck pain is caused by the neck muscles

Thomas Hanna once said, “a stiff neck is a stiff body.” Muscle tightness in the neck is only a part of a larger IMG_3845muscular pattern of contraction closer to the center of the body. The vertebrae that comprise what we think of as “the neck” are only 7 vertebrae of 24 that comprise the spinal column. There are several layers of strong paravertebral muscles on both sides of the spine that extend from the tailbone all the way up into the base of the skull. If the muscles on the back of the body – from neck to pelvis – are tight, the neck will be affected. This kind of “Green Light Reflex” posture creates pain in the back of the neck and into the base of the skull.

If the front of the body is hunched and slumped, the neck will be affected as well; this “Red Light Reflex” posture draws the head forward, which causes the muscles that move the neck and balance the head to contract strongly to maintain balance.

Simply addressing the neck muscles will not solve the problem – for the long term. The body moves as a system, not a jumble of individual parts. Relaxing the back and front of the body can result in a more relaxed and pain-free neck.

Myth #2: Neck problems come with old age

The older we get, the more opportunities our muscles have had to learn to stay tight, “frozen,” and contracted. This is how Sensory Motor Amnesia develops. It occurs due to accidents, injuries, surgeries, repetitive use, and emotional stress.  If that state of habitually contracted muscles progresses over the years, it will appear that the neck problem is a result of age, when in fact, it is the result of muscular dysfunction left unchecked. There is no substantive evidence to prove that age itself has anything to do with neck problems. There is, however, substantive evidence that a lack of movement can result in tighter muscles and restricted movement. This can happen at any age, especially in today’s technological world.

Myth #3: Neck problems mean the neck muscles are weak and need strengthening

I addressed this issue of painful muscles being “weak muscles,” in an old post about the Top Four Myths About Back Pain. Painful, tight muscles are rarely weak; in fact, they are usually so tight that they can neither release fully, nor move efficiently. Tightly contracted muscles which lack proper blood and oxygen are painful, sore and, because they cannot fully release, feel weak. What is needed is to restore fully muscle function, so the muscles can do the two things they are meant to do: fully contract and fully release. A muscle that cannot fully relax is holding unnecessary tension. Learn to relax and control the neck, back, shoulders, and hips and move the entire body efficiently and your neck pain will probably disappear forever.

Try this easy movement in order to relax and release not only the back muscles, but the neck muscles as well. Notice the connection between the neck and the lower back:

To learn to reverse chronic muscle pain with gentle, easy Somatic Movements for the back, neck, shoulders, and hips, click here for my Pain-Free Neck and Shoulders DVD.

11 thoughts on “Top 3 Myths About Neck Pain

  1. Pingback: How To Connect the Back with the Neck « Pain Relief Through Movement

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I have another one coming on hip pain. If there’s a topic about muscle pain, injury or injury recovery that you’d like me to comment on, or write about from a Somatic Education perspective, please let me know.

  2. Pingback: What To Do About Hip Pain? « Pain Relief Through Movement

  3. Hi I am a collegiate runner. For the past two years almost I have been rehabbing my body trying to get it back to full function and strength after hamstring injury that i continued to run on developed into other injuries and muscular dysfunctions. I am at the point now where I can’t even relax my left (injured) leg all the way. I am pretty much always stiff, my feel out of allignment, and my right leg now exhibits more issues than my left according to doctor (knee goes in, loose foot, knee pain). Recently my doctor had me get orthotics because he said the rotation of my foot would never go back to norm. Basically sitting is not comfortable, standing even less comfortable as i feel really unbalanced and awkward. Walking is the worst tho, its no longer effortless and fluid. my legs feel heavy, my hips feel locked, my hamstrings feel over used, and theres no spring to my step like there used to be. I’m always thinking about my next step and foot placement and how it should feel and everything its crazy… my movement pattern isn’t natural at all anymore…. with all this being said i have been lifting this summer with a doctor and strength coach at functional medicine center… Now I am worried that all i have done is worsen my compensatory patterns even more and not correct the issues, but only further strengthen muscle firing patterns that have been causing me the trouble in the first place…. Sorry i wrote a book on here… i’m just desperate. Ive seen more doctors, pt’s, specialists and chiro’s than i can count on two hands and I NEED to fix my body… I wanna compete again like i used to be able to effortlessly and yet explosive and quick. Not only that, but my quality of life has diminished because i can’t stand or walk without feeling slow, unbalanced, uncoordinated, or stiff.
    Should i stop lifting and doing the different exercises and running drills and focus solely on the relaxing and re-teaching somatic exercises? OR can i continue to do everything and add in the somatic exercises before and after my lifting and running routines?

    THANK YOU!! so much for time and consideration. I appreciate it.

    • Hi,

      You’re correct when you say that continuing on the road you’re on will only further strengthen the compensatory pattern you’re stuck in. I don’t know your accident/injury history other than what you said about your hamstring. Hamstring injuries invokes an almost immediate “trauma reflex,” which causes the waist muscles on one side of your body to contract tightly in order to keep the hamstring from further pain or injury. This pattern of muscular contraction can cause all the pain you describe. It is reversible with Hanna Somatics. You, however, are the one who has to make it happen. Much like tinkering with you running technique, the elimination of this pattern can only be achieved through slow, aware re-training of your brain and the way it’s currently organizing your muscles (and the sensation of your muscles and movement).

      You could benefit from some time off from your present routine and some concentrated time doing Somatic Exercises. My best advice is to get a handful of one on one clinical Somatics sessions with a skilled and certified practitioner. This doesn’t mean do nothing but Somatics; it means to back off a bit. Learn how to “see” your body differently and re-pattern your muscles and movement gradually. Doing the same old same old, and just adding Somatics might help you out a bit, but you won’t get the change you’re telling me you want. You want to be the way you once were, correct?

      Where do you live?

      If you don’t live near a practitioner, my suggestion is to purchase my book and DVD combination package. Go through the Somatic Exercises slowly and gradually work up to learning all of them. Then go on to my Pain-Free Legs and Hips DVD and/or my Pain-Free Athletes. The more you learn, the more you regain your physical awareness, balance, coordination and technique. You can get back to smooth, explosive movement. I was an injured dancer and only wish I’d found Somatics in my twenties. It would have saved my career.

      I also do one on one video Skype sessions, which are very useful and can speed your progress.

      I hope this helps!
      All the best,

      • Thanks for your response… Most of the time I’m in Indianapolis but i also live in st. louis for summer and I’m back occasionally in the fall. Im guessing there are none of these practitioners near those cities? Also, can somatics help strengthen my feet/ restore function to my feet?


  4. Pingback: Top 3 Myths About Neck Pain – Dr. Granat

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