THE NECK

THE STRUCTURE

  • In the cervical spine there are seven vertebrae, forming a natural forward curve.

  • The vertebral bodies are joined by the inter-vertebral discs which have a tough outer rim of cartilage and a jelly-like centre.

  • The discs act as shock absorbers.

  • The spinal nerves exit from the spinal cord through openings (foramina) between the vertebrae, and supply the skin and muscles of the shoulders, arms and hands.

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THE CAUSES OF BODY STRESS

Mechanical Causes

  • Jarring or jerking the neck as in a fall or a whiplash in a car accident

  • Working or reading with the head tilted downwards for lengthy periods

  • Twisting the neck as in reversing a car

  • Poor neck posture

Mental / Emotional Causes

  • Emotions like intense anger, anxiety or shock, which cause a person to hunch the shoulders and tighten the neck muscles

  • A state of ongoing depression will also bring about postural distortions

  • The physical discomfort resulting from the body stress will reinforce the negative emotions and lead to a vicious circle
     

Chemical Causes

  • Exposure to harmful chemicals may severely irritate the nervous system and cause the neck muscles to tighten, e.g. chemicals which we inhale, such as car fumes and insecticides

  • Substances which we absorb through the skin, such as cleaning materials and certain cosmetics

  • Some people react adversely to certain foods and to preservatives and colourants

  • An infection, such as the flu or cold virus, may result in neck stress

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THE EFFECTS OF BODY STRESS

  • Neck pain, stiffness and an inability to fully turn the head

  • Pain, tingling or numbness in the shoulder, arm or hand

  • Arm muscles may be weakened, resulting in difficulty in grasping objects

  • Headaches or pain in the face or jaw

  • Sensations of dizziness or nausea

  • Vision and the senses of smell and taste could be adversely affected

  • A burning, dry mouth or excess saliva

  • Impact on nerve connections to internal organs, such as the heart, lungs and digestive system, undermining normal function

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ADVICE TO MINIMISE STRESS TO THE NECK 

  • Never sleep on your stomach, as lying with the neck twisted is harmful
  • If you sleep on your back use a soft pillow which you can mould to support the hollow of your neck.  Do not use a thick pillow which would tilt the chin downwards
  • If you sleep on your side, double the pillow over to ensure that your head remains level and does not tilt towards your shoulder
  • Do not do neck exercises.  They are not necessary and may stress the neck muscles
  • Each morning and evening and at any time when you may have stressed your neck (e.g. working with your head tilted down) take a few moments to check your neck for sensitive spots and ease them in the way your BSR practitioner has shown you
  • Beware of a backwash at the hairdresser - insist on having a rolled-up towel between your neck and the edge of the basin

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