Friday Post: Head Weight, or “Dead” Weight?

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The head is the bodies most northerly point. As such, it is a most important site of interest and body awareness. Wherever it goes the body follows. As obvious as it seems, and funny to say, this is the truth of it.

Several months ago, after a year in space, several astronauts returned to earth. American astronaut Mark Kelly, in an interesting twist, had grown two inches in height upon his return. NASA says this is not unusual and Mark  himself commented that, “In space a lot of things change…We carry around this big weight.” He was referring to the weight of the head, which, without gravities pull, caused his body actually acquired the additional length. This is great news for the rest of us. Why?

The average adult head weighs 10-11 pounds (4.5-5 kg). The head sits on the spine over two large vertebrae, with muscles below for balance and control movement. The head can look side-to-side, up and down, and tilt and swivel. That’s a lot of motion, if the muscles and vertebrae are healthy and allow it. It’s like carrying around a large bowling ball, balanced on a stick over a couple of small saucers, held together by rubber bands of varying thickness. Crazy, right?

Now we add in the fact that this is also the site where the brain connects with the body, through nerves and accompanying arteries and veins, and we can appreciate that a lot is going on in this area that is very important. Strained muscles, tight jaw hinges, compressed nerves and restricted blood and nutrient flow cause millions of people every day to experience neck and head pain, jaw and eye discomfort, mental strain, sinus pressure, and headaches. And the list goes on. Its enough to give you a headache just thinking about it.

Did you know that for every centimeter forward of center the head tilts, an additional 10-20 pounds (up to 9.07 kg) of pressure is added to the neck? Where is center then, you might ask? It is where your ears line up with your shoulders. Imagine that you spend time looking down at computer screens, driving, reading, or just looking down regularly. Over a short time, your body would compensate by lengthening the muscles at the back of your neck, lifting you shoulders up to help carry the head weight forward, and shortening the muscles at the front of your neck and shoulders. This would help you perform the forward head tilt and hold it for prolonged periods. But at what cost? The nerves at the front of the neck would compress. The arteries and veins carrying blood might be constricted as well. Glands in the anterior neck that control hormones might be constricted. And the vertebrae might begin to follow the muscles, reinforcing the forward tilt. Image then how hard it might be to suddenly ask your head to rebalance itself over the shoulders when those muscles have learned the tilted position and it has come to feel normal? It would be difficult and feel unnatural, because the forward tile has become habit, even as it causes pain and tension. This is exactly what happens to cause so many problems.

Fortunately, the solution lies in the problem, through movement. With simple controlled movements the neck muscles realign the head back to center, and with practice you can return to balance and healthy neck and shoulder movement. Good alignment will become natural again, as it was when you were a child. This means you will know who you are off-center and can readjust with ease. With practice the muscles reposition themselves to healthy length, nerves are released, arteries and veins flow better and you feel better too.

You don’t have to stop computing, driving, reading or looking down. Just learn a few simple movements to put you head back on your shoulders, so to speak, and do them whenever you feel your neck tiring or head getting heavy, or whenever you take a break or have a couple of minutes to stop what you are doing.

Try this. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, in and out. Keep breathing. Notice if you feel tension or strain in your face, head or neck. Try not to judge, and just notice. Now, slowly open your eyes. Inhale again and stretch your head forward, looking straight in front of you. As you exhale draw your chin back until you feel the muscles at the back you you neck activate or tighten. Hold this position as you count to five, then inhale and release. Repeat this movement, with breath three times.

You have just begun balancing you head on your shoulders, redistributing the weight of you head in a more healthy way. This may feel funny at first. You may have felt discomfort in your neck or shoulders when you did this, especially along the back. This is normal as those muscles are not used to working normally.

Do this simple movement a few times each day for a week. Notice how you feel, when doing the movement and throughout the day. You may begin to sit up a little taller, notice when you neck is fatiguing before you have pain or have an increased range of neck motion. This movement along with a regular practice that repatterns all of the major muscles of the head, neck, and shoulders is the key to resolving many causes of pain, discomfort and fatigue.

To learn more about Healthy Movement© techniques that can help release pain and discomfort so you can enjoy your body nd how it moves again, check the events listing for upcoming workshops, or contact me to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

 

 

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About Tracey Lee Curtis

As a lifelong student of yoga, movement and natural healing, I continually learn and grow as an individual. I began teaching yoga twelve years ago, when I experienced it as a powerful healing tool and knew I wanted to share what I was learning. In 2015, I started graduate school and began studying to become a Chiropractor. My teaching style has evolved to include a range of therapeutic practices, and is based on breath, flow, and awareness in movement. I use therapeutic movement and mind-body wellness techniques to help students connect with their own healing rhythm and energy. My work is based in the science of the body and of movement, the psychology of how the body and mind work together to form the whole, and the art of Chiropractic. I work with small groups and individuals as a therapeutic movement specialist and as a Chiropractic Assistant. My work is constantly growing and improving as I learn from my studies and my students, as well as my own regular practice.
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