Hi everyone. Today, I want to talk to you about common causes of a reverse cervical curve or lost curve in your neck. Then I will share some simple steps that you can do to reestablish your cervical curve.
I always like to ask my students, “What do you need help with?” And recently a couple of folks said, “I really need to strengthen my neck,” or, “I have a lost cervical curve. I have a lot of neck pain, a lot of tension, some headaches.” One student has a little bit of numbness and tingling going down the arms. And, I realized this is an important fix I can share with you!
So, there are three common causes of lost cervical curve. The first one is text neck which happens when you are looking down at your devices. Or I could call it mom neck which happens when you are looking down at the floor, picking up your kids, picking up the house items all the time, etc. So, our neck is meant to have a curve that goes toward the front of the body, similar to the low back. The low back curve is more dramatic than the neck curve. Too much of a neck curve happens often if you slouch a lot and are looking up, like when you drive, if you round your shoulders a lot, etc. So, when we slouch but then drop the head to text at the same time, we’re really reversing that cervical curve. And over time, too much tucking or dropping the chin can lead to this reversal of the cervical curve.
The next common cause of loss of cervical curve is a head or neck injury. When you have a head or neck injury, the scalene muscles on the front and sides on the neck are going to strongly contract. Those scalenes muscles contract to stabilize the neck, to keep you from getting harmed. However, those scalenes can get stuck and they continue to want to protect your neck far beyond the time when they should have let go.
So, the scalenes, three sets of them on either side of the neck, can contract a lot and just pull. It feels like your head is getting sucked down into your neck, maybe like your neck is disappearing because these muscles are pulling it down. It’s terrible. And, if the anterior scalenes get really tight, they’re going to tuck the chin a little bit. This will feel like a lot of tension in the back of the neck. You might feel it a base of the skull.
The third common cause is stress. So stress can also activates the scalenes, and it keeps the scalenes muscles tense. How does stress keep the scalene muscles tense? Well, when we’re stressed out, we breathe up high in the body, and not deep in our stomachs. The scalenes then get activated because one of their jobs is to lift your rib cage up so that you can take a bigger and deeper breath. So, by stressing out we are not taking deeper fuller breaths which activate tension in the scalenes.
So the 3 common causes again are texting & looking down, stress, & injury.
So how do we fix this? Well, the first thing is to breathe in your belly. Pretty much anytime you have anything going on in your body, that is an injury or pain, the very first thing you want to do is breathe in your belly. When you breathe in the belly, you allow the scalene muscles to soften
Next step is to stretch the front of the neck and open up the scalenes. So I’m going to share with you some stretching tips. Take your right hand and find your left collarbone and lay that right hand down along your left collar bone, breathe in your belly, take your left hand along that right hand, just kind of press that tissue down. That’s going to anchor that tissue. And then you lift your head up and back, chin up and back and off to the right. And then you’d want to do the other side, laying your left hand along the right collarbone, anchoring down with that right hand, and then lifting the chin up and back.
The next thing you want to do is use a soft ball to release the scalenes. You can find a demo on my YouTube channel! CLICK HERE to see the Scalenes video
Finally, the last step is to strengthen the muscles in the back of your neck so that they will be activating and re-establishing your cervical curve. First we released what’s pulling on them first place, then we’re able to actually strengthen them. If you skip those earlier steps and just go right to the strengthening you’ll find that it doesn’t really work. Check out the image below to see a great strengthening technique.
Clasp your hands and place them on the back of your head. Then, look up about 45 degrees. As you inhale, you push the head into the hand and then as you exhale, just relax. Inhale, push the head into the hands and the hands into the head, and then exhale to relax. You can feel those muscles in the back of your neck firing up.
So, I sure hope that this was helpful. Be sure to try the techniques and check out the YouTube video on rolling the scalenes.