Hold Your Head High: Help for Neck Pain

Jill Miller by Jill Miller | May 12th, 2014 | 2 Comments
topic: Fitness, Yoga

Jill Miller and familyPlease forgive my lapse in blogging for the past few months, I was busy giving birth. Twice. First, I had a beautiful daughter named Lilah, who is now 2 months old. And secondly to my first book, The Roll Model, which will be published in September.

These “projects” have been filling my head and heart simultaneously for the past year, but I am happy to say, I can now share some of my newer ideas again!

The first idea hit me hard on the head (relatively speaking) yesterday. I picked up a 15-pound bag of dog food for my puppy (oh yes, I also “birthed” a puppy recently too!) while out running errands on foot. I was carrying Lilah in her carrier, and had very few options in terms of how to walk the quarter mile back home carrying the sack of food without squashing Lilah. So I hoisted the bag of food on top of my head and voila!

Jiller Miller posture

When having two arms isn't enough, use your head as a "third limb." The pressure on my skull forced me to properly align my spine, head and neck.

The puppy food had just enough yield to slightly conform to the shape of my head, which made balancing it relatively easy. The bag of food was not light — 15 pounds is not like wearing a beret — and my neck and spinal muscles had to do quite a bit of dynamic stabilizing in order for that bag to not fall. They also had to inform me of their position so that  I could avoid overloading one area of my neck over another. By the time I got home, my core felt worked out and my posture felt better than ever.

One step a-head

I forgot how great it feels to carry things on my head. I actually have a long history of walking with things on my noggin. During high school, I was obsessed with posture. I had read that sitting with good posture helps you remain more alert and minimizes falling asleep. The falling asleep part piqued my interest, as my first-period Physics class was so boring, I would actually fall sleep during class. A lot. So I needed some solutions other than coffee to help me perk up, and posture training was my bizarre way to keep up my straight A’s.

So I started to walk with books on my head, then my backpack, shopping bags, anything that made my spine and neck pay attention. Of course, my yoga practice benefited from all of this help, as did my balance and coordination for dance.

The long-term effects of head-carrying are that the larger and smaller muscles of the neck and spine activate in a different way than they typically do. Think about it: unless you are a breakdancer or perform regular Headstands, you are probably not placing any pressure on your skull that requires the motor and sensory mapping of your tissues from this vector.

Neck PainYour body and brain thrive on novelty, touch and movement problem-solving. Most head and neck muscles are held for epic periods of time in one position, fastened on a computer screen or texting device. Your neck muscles strain to hold your heavy head from falling into your lap over the course of the day. For every inch forward your head hangs, it adds an additional 10 pounds of stress to your neck support muscles. This leads to aches, pains, headaches and more.

I highly recommend adding some head-carrying into your daily routine to strengthen those poor computer muscles and activate your deep core far away from your computer.

Use your head: Like daughter, like mother

LilahLilah is hitting new milestones daily, and right now, she is teaching me so much about how to hold her heavy head. For the first time in her life, she is able to hold the weight of her head perfectly balanced, just as I am attempting to master balancing dog food. Her body’s development is pristine and naturally novel. As her mama, I have to  remind myself to use all the parts of me that are so easy to forget…

I should definitely continue to use my head before I lose it. A great parenting tip for us all!

Lilah

Comments

  1. Closing the superior kinetic chain, I love it. Great advice to defy gravity’s pull. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is that a 20lb bag of dog kibble on your head?

    Dinneen | May 12th, 2014 | Comment Permalink
  2. That must have got you some interesting stares, Jill! Great advice, as usual. Thank you.

    Cute baby goes without saying…. :)

    Can you share what carrier you are using in this picture?

    alfagetti | May 13th, 2014 | Comment Permalink

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