I was watching an old NCIS re-run the other day and one of Abby’s co-workers observed that she was tugging at her neck as she worked. He commented about ineffective ‘chi’ and disrupted energy flow and told her to look into getting a neck massage.
Romantic tension aside, it was actually a realistic comment on an otherwise unrealistic show (but so interesting to watch).
The point he was likely trying to make is that tension in the muscles, whether it’s in the neck, abdomen, chest, back or legs stops the natural flow of energy throughout the body.
Called chi (pronounced ‘chee’ and sometimes ‘kee’), it is described as the force of life, or energy, that permeates and surrounds all living matter.
Many cultures believe in the existence and function of this energy, and call it by different names. Asian culture refers to it as Qi and maintain that a flowing, balanced chi leads to optimum and ideal health. Disrupting the flow, conversely, leads to poor health.
Whether or not you believe in this seemingly universally held belief in energy, the fact remains that muscle tension, specifically in the neck, leads to a host of negative health issues.
Headache, neck pain, and even blood flow problems leading to dizziness, snoring, and migraine can all be acutely affected by tension in the neck. Chronic, or prolonged, tension over long periods of time can even change the shape of your spine at the cervical vertebrae level. This worsens the tension because of pinching of nerves, deterioration of vertebral structures, and even more severely reduced blood flow.
Neck tension is something we give to ourselves, but rarely do I hear anyone actually take the rap for it. People tell me that their muscle tension is because of the job, home life, or other outside force. But there is no invisible ‘stress man’ standing behind you squeezing the muscles into a knot.
We do this to ourselves.
Thankfully, we can also undo it ourselves as well.
Massage, as was referenced above, is a wonderful therapy for people who suffer from tension in the neck. Finding a licensed massage therapist who is well-trained is the key here, although even a brief and gentle rub from a trusted pal is even effective in a pinch (forgive the pun).
A licensed professional can help you identify specifically where you are hoarding the tension and negative energy. Then, he or she can help you work it out.
But it isn’t enough to just smooth away the problem after it occurs, as we all know. Preventing the problem from within is the best way to avoid the consequences since it prevents the habit of tightening the muscles in the first place.
We hear a lot that exercise is one way to prevent and unravel the knots, but not if it’s done incorrectly. Improper form and posture during workouts will worsen, not improve the problem.
And while running, lifting weights, and other types of strenuous exercise get the blood moving and churn out relaxing endorphins, they can also contribute to muscle tension in the neck if you aren’t careful to maintain good posture and form during the exercise and especially if you don’t stretch afterward.
Other exercises, such as those found in yoga and Tai Chi are extremely effective at helping to relax and smooth out the muscles in the neck. Many devoted fans of these exercises maintain that it is like training your head to literally float above your body.
It is this focused training that teaches people to notice from the beginning when they are starting to tighten up and then stop the tension cycle from the start.
Other areas that are critical to address are diet (as in Abby’s case with the gallons of ‘Caff-Pow’ caffeinated soda she knocks back), as many foods are considered to be those that contribute to disruptions in the flow of energy. Drinks that promise late afternoon pick-me-ups are among the worst offenders, as they offer zero in nutritive value while introducing a host of unnatural chemicals into the system.
For safe and natural exercises to work out tension in the neck, try my programs for neck pain and also for migraine.
by Christian Goodman