neck

Does this squash make my head look fat?

Last week, I left off by saying we're going to add 32 pounds to your head.

Chances are, you've already done this yourself.

See, there's this fun little graphic floating around bodywork circles that looks something like this (Thank you, Erik Dalton!):

42lbhead.jpg

The explanation is that the average human head weighs about 10-12 pounds, and for every inch it moves forward off the center line, it gains ten pounds.

Not in reality, of course, but in how the head-supporting structures of the body 'perceive' it.

That baby is homegrown!

That baby is homegrown!

Imagine holding a bowling ball like this. (I do not own a bowling ball, so pretend this squash is a Brusnwick TZone. Or something like that).

It's easier to sustain this stress load when the force of gravity can travel through the center of the ball down through my supported arm.

Now, imagine moving it slightly off-center. More ball for gravity to pull on. Pretty soon, my arm would fatigue and shake, and probably drop the ball.

P4H.42lbsquash.jpg

Or explode onto the floor... creating quite a mess. (Use your imagination...)

With the head, however, this is a much more gradual process that the supportive tissue has time to adapt to, which it does ... by beefing up the muscles in the neck, upper shoulders and back (maybe you sport one of those little to not-so-little humps at the base of your neck?), as it gallantly attempts to keep your head from falling forward into your chest.

Now, it's important to understand, that, while typically 10-12 pounds is still no easy feat to not only balance but mobilize in many directions atop a small stack of cervical vertebrae, we are equipped with an almost anti-gravity-like tent that begins developing from the moment we're out of the womb

This tent includes the neck muscles, but also those of the upper back and the upper chest, and when we are recruiting a wide range of motions of the head, neck and shoulders, this support is accomplished with ease.

But, as we get older in this technologically-advanced society, we've come to limit our range to forward, and even more forward.

And now with the standard feature of cars equipped with backing up screens, we soon won't even need neck rotation at all.

Yay...?

So, the next time you say, "I hold all my tension in my neck and shoulders..." now you know you also may be carrying a 42 pound butterrnut sqaush up there that your upper body (and eventually your mid- and lower body) is doing its darndest to support.

More on how to deal with this will be revealed in coming issues. In the meantime, keep doing your head ramping and dropping, while adding in some slow turning from side to side.

Next time, we'll talk a bit about adaptation, and why this isn't always a good thing.

Exercise: Ramping Your Head

Now that we've introduced you some ideas about 'good posture' and alignment (which will continue to be fleshed out as this series goes along), let's try an alignment-oriented movement, which addresses the relationship between your head and your upper body.

You may have noticed (or, maybe are noticing right now) that when positioned in front of a screen (or book, or dinner plate, or steering wheel), your head not only drifts out in front of your upper body, but your neck takes on a kind of turtle-quality, as your cervical vertebrae go into 'hyper-extension', or excessive curvature.

ForwardHdEv.jpg

Besides the pain in the neck this eventually causes, over the long haul, those vertebrae undergo chronic, imbalanced compression, leading to joint inflammation (arthritis) and degeneration of the discs. (Think of what happens to a door hinge over the years when the door is hanging crooked...)

What this simple movement is intended to do is to not only bring your head more in alignment with your upper body (ie, ears stacked over the shoulders); but allow for the elongation of the neck as the vertebrae are given more space, and eventually some release in the tightened short muscles of the back of the neck.

There are more mechanics to reversing this pattern, but this is a good place to begin.

Ideally, you would 'practice' this as often as you could remember throughout the day. I also recommend 'ramping' anytime you're doing movements that involve turning the head, or when doing exercises in a 'down on all fours position.' The video will give you demonstrations of what I mean.

Let us know what you think!

In the next post, we'll add 32 more pounds on to your head!