The neck muscles perform several very important functions and when in spasm may be signaling you to address an underlying condition. There are several layers of neck muscles that extend from just below the surface of the skin to deeply surrounding the spinal bones, and an uncontrolled contraction of these muscles (neck muscle spasm) can cause extreme pain, limited range of motion, and other related symptoms or secondary conditions. Generally speaking, the neck muscles perform three main functions:
- Proprioception (spatial awareness)
The human head weighs approximately 8-15 pounds (equivalent to a bowling ball) and contains the most important organ in the body; the brain. The weight of the head is supported on the top bones of the neck (the upper cervical vertebrae, a.k.a. “atlas” and “axis”) which require the contractility of the neck muscles to maintain proper balance. Structure determines function and abnormal structural alignment in this critical portion of the spine can negatively impact the function of the neck muscles, causing them to go into spasm. Spasm occurs when the weight distribution of the head is unequal on the neck, resulting in an increased muscular tone of the neck muscles on one side when compared to the other. Over time, this increased level of muscular activity creates a series of secondary conditions (a.k.a. symptoms) such as neck pain, tension headaches, shoulder pain, stiffness, and more.
Where the head goes, the body follows. For example, a small girl can easily lead around a 2,000 pound Clydesdale horse with gentle pressures on the head via reins. Through the action of the neck muscles, the joints and bones of the neck move in relationship to each other with a very wide range of motion. Since the skull carries the brain, the rest of the body will adapt to abnormal structural alignment of the upper cervical spine through compensatory postural distortions. This increased level of structural stress causes neck muscle spasm along with pain and dysfunction. Attempts at relieving neck muscle spasm without addressing the structural alignment will be short lived at best. Full resolution requires precision structural adjusting procedures to restore proper movement and function at the spinal joints.
PROPRIOCEPTION (spatial awareness)
A lesser known function of the neck muscles is to provide real-time feedback to the brain regarding the position of the head and neck in relation to the rest of the body. This “sixth-sense” is called proprioception and is responsible to maintaining balance in an upright posture. This information from the neck muscles is cross-referenced with the spinal joints that they provide support and movement to. Muscular spasm is likely to occur when conflicting information occurs in this “cross-referencing” process. The body will protect itself on the deepest level first, in this case the alignment of the spinal joints. A displacement in the alignment of the joints of the neck (i.e. upper cervical subluxation) will reflect to the brain as a discrepancy in spatial awareness. The consequence of this process is often neck muscle spasm as the body attempts to stabilize an unstable structural situation.
There are several options for managing neck muscle spasm, many of which provide temporary relief and require ongoing treatments. Massage therapy, acupuncture, stretching, and various over the counter and prescription muscle relaxers are common treatments for symptom alleviation. When these approaches fail physical therapy or conventional chiropractic care are often employed to temporarily relieve spasm, increase range of motion, and mobilize the joints in the neck. When these options are exhausted, more invasive procedures such as injections start to enter the picture.
STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS REQUIRE STRUCTURAL SOLUTIONS
Considering the three main functions of the neck muscles have a cause-effect relationship with the upper cervical spine, it stands to reason that an evaluation of the structural integrity of this area is essential for achieving full resolution of neck muscle spasm. Blair Upper Cervical Doctors are chiropractors with a focused training in detecting and correcting these issues. For individuals suffering with neck muscle spasm, this unique approach offers a safe and gentle means of correcting the abnormal structural alignment underlying their condition. The precise nature of the Blair Upper Cervical procedures ensures that these problems can be addressed without twisting, popping, or cracking the joints of the neck.