Why are my neck muscles tight?

As upper cervical chiropractors we deal with a small area which can have a huge impact on the whole body. Patients present with a multitude of different symptoms in multiple areas, however something we are commonly asked about is the tightness they feel in the neck. 

 

This may be felt at the back of the neck, on the side of the neck, and sometimes in the front of the neck. There can be a few different reasons for the tightness however first let's examine what the muscles are doing that makes them feel tight.

neck tightness

 

 

Muscles have two functions; they either move a joint, or stabilise a joint. A muscle will contract to move a joint and relax when the joint is in motion via another muscle. For instance the biceps muscle will contract to bend the elbow whilst the triceps relax; and when straightening the elbow the opposite happens. When a muscle is contracted it is tighter than when it is relaxed. Now imagine you were doing a motion where you were bending the elbow joint, such as a bicep curl; but you wanted to stop part way through the motion with the elbow at 90 degrees. What happens to the bicep muscle? It contracts harder and harder the longer you leave it there and eventually fatigues. When a muscle fatigues it becomes sore and may remain feeling tight for a while. 

So what does this have to do with the neck?

The muscles of the neck are responsible for holding the head up, your head is around the weight of a bowling ball. Now imagine if the centre of gravity of the head is off centre. Perhaps the head is tilted to one side or the other, or most commonly the head is tipped forward. This displacement of head position causes the neck and upper back muscles to fire harder to hold it in position. Now like in our biceps analogy the muscles begin to fatigue as they are placed under load for longer and longer periods of time. When the head is chronically in these positions the muscles are required to work harder and harder all the time, thus producing chronic tightness and pain. This tightness can also begin to cause headaches and other patterns of referred pain. 

 

Many patients who experience this pain will report that going for a massage helps, but only for a few hours or days until the pain returns. This is because the massage gives the muscle temporary respite and help in the short term, however the underlying issue doesn’t get addressed. 

 

In our office we analyse the upper neck for misalignment of the upper cervical vertebrae. Because of the nature of the misalignments that can occur we will often find a change in head posture like a head tilt or anterior head carriage (forward head posture) as a result of the misalignment. When we correct the misalignment of the vertebra we see the compensatory muscle tightness and pain decrease as the head is in a better position for the muscles to cope with. This process can take time however patients often report some of these changes occurring within the first few weeks of care. 

 

If you suffer with neck pain and haven’t found relief yet why not book a call with us and see if we can help - https://calendly.com/elliott-41/15min

Or maybe check out one of our related blogs here.

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