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Other/Mixed Neck side tilt mobility feels sore too often

Other strength modalities (e.g., Clubs), mixed strength modalities (e.g., combined kettlebell and barbell), other goals (flexibility)

GreenSoup

Level 6 Valued Member
When I move my neck for the side-to-side tilt the muscles at or around the traps often feel strained or overworked. Technically the mobility exercise is trying to arch the neck like a macaroni noodle as a curve so the ear can get close to touching the shoulder but I'm usually a few inches away from that mobility goal. The neck muscles are almost always sore when I do this for 20 tilts each side. Nodding forward and tipping back does not produce the same result, nor does rotation.

Is there an equivalent to the "fast and loose" drills for the neck that reduce soreness? I presume a fast neck drill could be deadly (I envision a bobblehead on an off-roader's dashboard as an unhealthy movement to emulate) but there is probably something people recommend to get the traps and other neck muscles to relax faster. Is there? Thank you.
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
We can’t really offer medical advice :) but. . .

Is your neck only sore after your side tilts, or more in general? A tight neck can be caused by a lot of different things.
 

Aaron Jones

Level 4 Valued Member
A couple things to consider:
1. If your traps are always tight, it may be because of weakness of the deep neck flexors and/or the lower traps. This often comes with a sense of neck fatigue, head heaviness, and a forward head.
2. It could also be due to a forward head posture that’s more habitual or due to stiffness, which would again make you rely on your traps and suboccipital muscles too much.
3. You could have bony restrictions. I don’t know your age, gender, etc. but a lot of people develop uncinate processes (excessive bone growth) on the lateral portion of their neck bones as they age, and this can drastically limit sidebending of the neck.
4. Your breathing pattern could be involved. If you tend to use your accessory respiratory muscles such as traps and scalenes, instead of your diaphragm, they could get tight and irritated.

Let me know if any of this sounds like you and I may be able to give some further advice.

Best,
Aaron
 

watchnerd

Level 7 Valued Member
Is there an equivalent to the "fast and loose" drills for the neck that reduce soreness?

I do the opposite.

I use heavy steel implements (20 kg barbell, 15 lb stainless steel war bar, 20 lb mace) to roll out my traps and sternocleidomastoid.

Some people call it 'body tempering' or some such.

After that, I slather on some Tiger Balm and wake up the next morning feeling looser.
 

GreenSoup

Level 6 Valued Member
A couple things to consider:
1. If your traps are always tight, it may be because of weakness of the deep neck flexors and/or the lower traps. This often comes with a sense of neck fatigue, head heaviness, and a forward head.
2. It could also be due to a forward head posture that’s more habitual or due to stiffness, which would again make you rely on your traps and suboccipital muscles too much.
3. You could have bony restrictions. I don’t know your age, gender, etc. but a lot of people develop uncinate processes (excessive bone growth) on the lateral portion of their neck bones as they age, and this can drastically limit sidebending of the neck.
4. Your breathing pattern could be involved. If you tend to use your accessory respiratory muscles such as traps and scalenes, instead of your diaphragm, they could get tight and irritated.

Let me know if any of this sounds like you and I may be able to give some further advice.

Best,
Aaron
Thank you everyone for replying.

For your specific comment Aaron (and #1 answer's BlueJeff's question):
1. Traps are usually not tight unless it is within a day of the side tilting. If I work not to push very hard on the side tilting that can usually not result in much strain, but also reduces the range of motion for a mobility exercise that tries to increase the range of motion
2. In the past there was some head forward posture but it has been improved the past few months. Perhaps not enough?
3. I'm getting close to 50 so that might be the case. There is no diagnosis.
4. When I focused on diaphragmic breathing, consciously reaching the end ROM and not pushing, the tension is far lower. This may be the key if built into a habit. Does the combination of these four answers lead to a training answer you are familiar with?

Watchnerd: It's not steel but I rolled my 35kg kettlebell on my traps while standing. The ergonomics with the handle are great as well as a sense of relief with about a minute on each side. My web search for "sternocleidomastoid rolling" did not quite find any rolling. Is there a recommended link for that technique?

I will be incorporating the focused breathing and trap rolling into my sessions unless someone suggests there is an unexpected danger to doing so.
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
1. Traps are usually not tight unless it is within a day of the side tilting. If I work not to push very hard on the side tilting that can usually not result in much strain, but also reduces the range of motion for a mobility exercise that tries to increase the range of motion
4. When I focused on diaphragmic breathing, consciously reaching the end ROM and not pushing, the tension is far lower. This may be the key if built into a habit. Does the combination of these four answers lead to a training answer you are familiar with?
I have some thoughts redgarding the above two points. Hopefully @Aaron Jones will provide you with some more detailed stuff, as he has very kindly been providing some great advice to forum members lately. Aaron if you read this, you are a PT if I am not mistaken?

@GreenSoup
Pertaining to the above two points, it may be that you are using your neck muscles to assist in breathing, a common compensation. These are going to be very broad terms I'm using here: If you start doing lots of side bending repetitions on top of neck breathing, you might be essentially adding tonicity to the neck muscles. That is, you could be sort of "over-activating them."

There's nothing inherently wrong with doing repetitions of a movement with the intention of increasing ROM, but your nervous system has to stop sending the "go" signal to those muscles when you are not using them. If you are already using them to assist breathing, and then you ADD side bending, you are sending more "go" signal, making them tighter.

Since this is online I am not medical professional, I cannot really tell you what's best to do. An in-person visit to someone is probably best.

That being said, I am big proponent of PRI (postural restoration institute) principles. One very big principle therein is ribcage expansion. When you breath diaphragmatically, your diaphragm pushes down so that your lungs (which are in your thorax, your ribcage) can expand. As this happens, the ribcage should expand outward in "all directions" kind of like a ballon. If parts of your ribcage are compressed (for various possible reasons) a possible compensation is that you will use your neck muscles to pull the ribs up to breath instead of allowing them to expand.

There are a wide variety of PRI breathing drills out there, but you would need something tailored to you specific postural patterns. So I would do the following:

For the front of the chest:

-lay on your back at the base of a wall. Your feet should be bare or in socks (as long as they don't slip during the exercise). You may relax your head on a towel or pillow, as long as your head doesn't angle down towards your chest.
-put your feet up on the wall so that there is a 90 degree bend in the knees and 90 degree bend at your hips. If you have something available, put a yoga block, rolled up towel or something between your knees.
-keep the heel, ball of the foot (under the big toe) and the pad of the foot just under your little toe all in contact with the wall
-pull down on the wall like you are trying to wipe the paint off with the soles of your feet. Pull just enough that your lower back comes off the floor. If you do this right, your abs should remain soft. The lower back stays on the ground, but the top of the pelvis barely comes off.

Practice this a few times to get a feel for it.

-next, reach your fingertips towards the ceiling (hands in a "karate chop" orientation; thumbs up)
-take a normal breath in
-slowly exhale, relaxing your lower jaw. The cue I like best here is to "fog up a really big mirror." Exhale until alllllll the air is out. You should feel your lower abs engage. As you exhale, let the fingers "reach" towards the ceiling. Relax the head on the ground/pillow.
-Keep a little engagement in those lower abs, and then inhale through the nose as quietly as you can. Keep the jaw relaxed. Try to let your chest and ribs expand and not your belly. Keep your neck relaxed.
-**the breathing sequence is done while the feet are gently pulling down on the wall**

Repeat a handful of times, a few times throughout the day, if possible. Keep your face and neck relaxed. If you have been using your neck to breath, this might feel very difficult at first. Don't force it too hard. If it's really hard (it was for me, at first) just do one or two breaths at a time, and allow your breathing to return to normal (through your nose) before trying again.

Lastly, you can google "90 90 breathing" to see some videos, but there are a bunch of variations on this theme. What I described is the most generic form of the exercise.

For the back:
Google "rockback breathing" for some more info. You can alter this position by pointing your toes if ankle mobility allows, or you can do it on top of a sturdy surface where your toes can dangle. You can experiment with turning the palms to face you (back of hands on the floor) as well. Try to make the forearms verticle (hands in line with elbows, not with elbows wider than hands) if possible. This guy does a great job of showing the back expanding. For me, I got tight traps and neck pain, and back breathing like this is what cleared it up. The breathing pattern is just like the one I wrote above, but now you are in this position instead of the 90-90.


If anything provokes the pain, don't do it! See someone in person!

Hope it helps.
 

watchnerd

Level 7 Valued Member
Watchnerd: It's not steel but I rolled my 35kg kettlebell on my traps while standing. The ergonomics with the handle are great as well as a sense of relief with about a minute on each side. My web search for "sternocleidomastoid rolling" did not quite find any rolling. Is there a recommended link for that technique?

I do it standing, using a bar.

I tilt my head so it's exposed, like this (not me or my neck):

head+turn.jpg


I have the bar diagonal across my torso, coming through the opposite armpit, and roll it across the muscle.
 

Aaron Jones

Level 4 Valued Member
Thank you everyone for replying.

For your specific comment Aaron (and #1 answer's BlueJeff's question):
1. Traps are usually not tight unless it is within a day of the side tilting. If I work not to push very hard on the side tilting that can usually not result in much strain, but also reduces the range of motion for a mobility exercise that tries to increase the range of motion
2. In the past there was some head forward posture but it has been improved the past few months. Perhaps not enough?
3. I'm getting close to 50 so that might be the case. There is no diagnosis.
4. When I focused on diaphragmic breathing, consciously reaching the end ROM and not pushing, the tension is far lower. This may be the key if built into a habit. Does the combination of these four answers lead to a training answer you are familiar with?

Watchnerd: It's not steel but I rolled my 35kg kettlebell on my traps while standing. The ergonomics with the handle are great as well as a sense of relief with about a minute on each side. My web search for "sternocleidomastoid rolling" did not quite find any rolling. Is there a recommended link for that technique?

I will be incorporating the focused breathing and trap rolling into my sessions unless someone suggests there is an unexpected danger to doing so.
@bluejeff, yes, I am a PT. And thanks for the props.

@GreenSoup, I also like the work of the Postural Restoration Institute and concur with everything bluejeff said. I’m just getting into the Original Strength stuff but it seems to have some good stuff on breathing and posture and there are lots of folks on here that could give you more info on that system.

Another ROM trick for sidebending is using isometrics. Before tilting to the L side, place your L palm on the side of your head and gently push into your hand for a few seconds. Incrementally move into L sidebending and repeat the isometric each time. This should quiet the R trap and scalenes a little and allow for more ROM. Do the same on the other side, of course. Don’t push into pain and please don’t hurt yourself.

Regarding the uncinate processes, 50 is still a little young to develop those too much but within the realm of possibility.

It sounds like pursuing posture and breathing is the most worthwhile factor here.

Let us know how it goes , or if you have other Qs.

Cheers
 

GreenSoup

Level 6 Valued Member
The wealth of information provided here is incredible. I feel like I now have tools for both immediate relief and long term resolution.

I did not specifically notice a difference in the 90/90 breathing exercise but felt an interesting stretch in the forward breathing exercise. Both are simple enough to do that I might as well use them for 6+ weeks and see have my exercise journal track the progress to ensure this gets solved. Aaron I will check out the Postural Restoration Institute for more tips to add to this regimen.

Another interesting thing I discovered is how blind spots can occur in psychology. I was very conscious of my head forward posture when using a computer and glad to have fixed that. I completely forgot that when I'm learning music and sometimes just playing I check my fretboard or keys by bending my neck forward. Of course the goal is to look at something other than your own strings or keys while playing but learning is a part of playing new music and sight helps the fingers find the right places faster.

It also means I spend some time daily with a head forward posture that I do not even want to stop! I don't get much time for music but perhaps that adds extra importance to the application of tips in this thread.
 

bluejeff

Level 6 Valued Member
I did not specifically notice a difference in the 90/90 breathing exercise but felt an interesting stretch in the forward breathing exercise. Both are simple enough to do that I might as well use them for 6+ weeks and see have my exercise journal track the progress to ensure this gets solved.
When I was first learning these kinds of exercises from my PT, I remarked that it just felt hard, or that I couldn't feel much. She responded by saying, "just because it doesn't feel like something is happening, doesn't mean nothing is happening." It took me 6months to a year to really feel my back and sides open up a lot. Hopefully it helps you.
 

GreenSoup

Level 6 Valued Member
Then I'll give it more than the one trial cycle BlueJeff. It fits so neatly between other work I would be doing it practically takes no time at all.
 
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