I very often see clients who complain of reduced range of motion (ROM) in the neck (cervical spine). Oftentimes, reduced neck ROM means neck pain as well, or headaches. I find that I can generally bring back good ROM using a combination of Rolfing® Structural Integration and craniosacral work. Sometimes visceral work is needed, or manual therapy for the nerves. Finding a body therapist trained in all of these modalities is your best bet, as they can address the problem whatever its source is.
What Causes Neck ROM Problems?
There are three key motions for the spine: forward- and backward-bending, side-bending, and rotation. Any of these can be reduced by
- an auto accident (especially whiplash),
- sleeping in an uncomfortable position,
- a bad fall,
- habitually having your head turned one way (eg., your computer monitor is to your right),
- holding the phone to your ear with a shoulder,
- a forward-head posture, or
- tight muscles.
Think for a moment about a whiplash. Say you are rear-ended while stopped at a traffic signal and your head is turned right because you are saying something to your friend in the passenger seat. Not only are the muscles at the front and back of the neck stressed, because your head is turned, a side-to-side imbalance can also set in, making it more difficult to turn your head one way.
What Kind of Treatment Helps?
Chiropractic work is excellent in these cases, as there is sometimes a vertebrae "out," but the issue may not fully resolve without soft-tissue work like Rolfing sessions, as it's an imbalance in the muscle/fascial tension on the vertebrae that holds them out of place. (This is why people often need less chiropractic care after they do Rolfing sessions: the newly balanced soft tissue allows the vertebrae to hold adjustments better.)
More severe restrictions can involve the dural tube (the "stocking" of fascia that surrounds the spinal cord), which responds to craniosacral work. Sometimes the ligaments that suspend the pleura of the lungs are also involved, as they attach directly to the 7th cervical vertebra; in this case, I do visceral work as well.
I also encourage clients to consider acupuncture as it can be of great assistance. For ongoing maintenance, a yoga practice is excellent.
How Many Sessions Are Needed?
In minor cases, one session will usually fix a "kinked" neck. With a major injury, repeated sessions are often needed, but you should get some immediate relief from the first session and see incremental progress with each session. In Washington and many other states, auto insurance policies will pay for your care after an auto accident, as will worker's compensation in work injuries. I will bill these insurances directly, and so will many other Rolfers™.
With good treatment, you can recover neck ROM in most cases where the problem is musculoskeletal. Your neck will not be a flexible as the chicken in this video below (there's something unique to chicken anatomy), but it might feel this loose!