Two groups of powerful muscles in the neck are frequently the source of many of our physical troubles. These are the neck flexors, muscles that bend our neck forward. The neck flexors, when they become tight and short, refer pain and disturbing symptoms into the chest, back, arms, face and head. These are the sternocleidomastoid muscles and the scalene muscles. Together they represent a major challenge to anyone who wishes to lift the burden of tension and ease the pain of stress and strain.
These neck-flexing muscles are highly reactive and prone to tension and shortening. By tightening and protecting our neck and throat area, this is the body’s primitive response to protecting our delicate throats. What was once a protective response to a very dangerous environment has become a permanent condition for many of us. A yoke of tension and strain develops around our neck. We may call it anxiety now but rarely are we ever completely aware of the physical reality (the tension, strain and distortion) that underlies our anxiety.
The Zubo is a 6 or 7 inch length of wooden dowel with rounded ends that can be a powerful tool for self-massage. It can be an aide in uncovering, and bringing into awareness, the reality of the tension in these muscles. Used properly the Zubo can be an effective means to relieve these tensions. The Zubo can be grasped as shown in the photo and pressed into to neck just above the clavicle. This is a major pressure point for the scalene muscles and while pressure is applied the head and neck can stretch towards the other side. This combination of stretch and pressure on the muscle is called a myofascial release technique and is more effective for treating tense muscles than either stretch or pressure used alone. Experiment and explore the range of possibilities for this technique in the treatment of neck tension. A tight scalene can refer pain into the chest, down the arm into the wrist, and even in the back around the inside of the scapula bone. Tight scalene muscles can entrap the nerves and blood vessels to the arm and hand. This often can cause a host of symptoms that often go misdiagnosed.
Hold the Zubo in the hand as shown and lean the side and front of the neck against the length of the tool and stretch the head towards the other side. Explore the sense of tension and ache that may be residing in the SCM (sternocleidomastoid) muscle. Tension and shortening of this and the scalene muscles becomes all too often a permanent feature to our physical and psychological condition.
We are usually quite unconscious of the tension, stiffness, strain and distortion we carry in our bodies. Yet here in the muscles and joints our biological energy is expressed or repressed. In a very real sense, until we glimpse the true nature of this physical reality, we continue to remain largely unconscious of a whole dimension of existence and one that exerts a profound influence on our well being.
We need to become conscious of our body sense. Most of us are conscious of having sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The sense in muscles and joints of tension and stiffness is called kinesthesia. Tension, ache, and stiffness are basic components to our physical condition and yet for many of us this awareness has become largely subconscious. By bringing our actual physical condition into consciousness, we can begin a course of treatment that can have a real and powerful effect on our well being. As long as our awareness is mainly of the abstract and psychological variety, our view of ourselves is rather distant and vague and our course of therapy remains largely ineffective. Liberation and personal transformation require us to look into the kinesthetic sense. At first we won’t like what we are feeling in our physical depths, but it is reality in a deep sense and what we find there needs to be addressed. By tapping into our own kinesthetic sense, we find a true guide. Abstract concepts like repression, anxiety, pain and suffering take on a clarity they did not have before. The true meaning to spontaneity, health, and personal freedom becomes a reality in our lives.
1. THE BODY HAS ITS REASONS
Therese Bertherat and Carol Bernstein, Pantheon, 1977
2. MYOFASCIAL PAIN AND DYSFUNCTION, THE TRIGGER POINT MANUAL, THE UPPER EXTREMITIES
Janet Travell, M.D., David Simons, M.D., Williams and Wilkins, 1983
3. MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
John F. Barnes, P.T., MFR Seminars, 1990
4. PAIN ERASURE
Bonnie Prudden, M. Evans & Co. Inc., 1980
5. RESURRECTION OF THE BODY
F. Matthias Alexander, Dell, 1969
Thomas Hanna, Addison-Wesley Publishing, 1988