The neck is one of the most common areas of musculoskeletal pain and discomfort, and is often associated with long term faulty postural. Poor postural alignment can be caused by sitting at your computer, looking down at an i-pad or i-phone for long periods of time, and slouching. This alters the segmental alignment in your neck which in turn increases wear and tear in the cervical vertebral column.

When your shoulders are hunched and rounded you carry tension in the muscles around your chest and shoulders, and you develop a forward head posture creating weakness in some muscles and tightness in others. Habits such as carrying a brief-case in the same hand, a handbag or golf bag over the same shoulder, or lifting a heavy load in one hand, over time can cause imbalances in the muscles of the spine and neck. Trauma, inflammation, excessive joint loading, or over-stretching can also affect the nerves and influence motor control in the neck. Studies indicate ‘the ability to attain a correct neutral spinal posture has a direct impact on cervical muscle function’ (Gwendolen Jull et al, 2008).

The muscles in the neck and shoulders help with the mechanisms of breathing and are referred to as the ‘secondary breathing muscles’. Stress and anxiety causes tension in these muscles and can lead to sore neck and shoulders, tension headaches, migraine and dizziness. Breathing correctly should always be a part of re-establishing correct alignment and movement in the cervical spine.

Ideal alignment for the head is to sit on top of the spine with the chest balancing on top of the pelvis and legs. It is therefore important to look at the body as a whole and to assess the posture from the feet upwards in order to balance the cervical spine.

One of my key teaching principles is to introduce students to the anatomy of the spine, and the way in which muscle imbalances around one area of the spine can have an impact on another area of the body, such as the neck and head. Learning about the structure and function of the cervical spine will help you care for your neck problem.

The above video is a good starting point to introduce you to the anatomy of your cervical spine.