As the musculoskeletal system ascends past the thoracic back, its load-bearing capacity becomes more and more dependent on a stable foundation of muscles, joints, and bones. Above the shoulders, an intricate balancing act takes place without the direct assistance of the major muscle groups and other structures of the hips and torso.
This arrangement makes sense based on the assumption that the vertical integrity of the spine will counteract gravity. The neck’s limited musculature is designed to handle a comparatively modest task: to move the head from front to back and side to side.
But our modern lives of minimal motion are encouraging the spine to move into forward flexion, distorting its S-curve into a C and forcing the mechanisms of the neck to do hard labor in order to keep us from losing our heads. With the head tilted forward, gravity has us by the nose and is pulling.
As a consequence, the cervical spine—the section between the shoulders and the base of the skull—may well be doing the hardest work of any part of the musculoskeletal system with the fewest resources. The spine goes from solid pedestal to flexible fishing pole whose tip is pulled down by a wriggling 10-pound “minnow.”
Since it doesn’t have much counterbalancing flexibility, the neck has little choice but to obey the hips. The forward flexion of the body, which starts primarily in the hips because we sit so much, reverses the cervical curve from convex to concave. This shift brings the head out of vertical alignment, where it was dynamically linked to and supported by the shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.
Do you want to resolve your neck pain? Restore the vertical alignment of all the load joints to get back to living.
1. Lie on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor pointed straight ahead.
2. Place your arms out to the side at shoulder level, with your palms flat on the floor.
3. Cross your right ankle over your left knee and rotate the ankle/knee junction down toward the floor.
*Your right foot should now be flat on the floor, along with the outside of your left leg.
4. Look in the opposite direction and relax your neck and shoulders.
5. Press the right knee away from your body using the right hip muscles.
6. Hold for 1 minute, then switch sides and repeat.
This e-cise promotes hip and spinal rotation with scapular engagement.