'I Slept a Crick Into My Neck...'.

“I Slept a Crick into my Neck” is the third in a series of Mind/Body Articles by Anamaya’s Graham Doke

I recently attended an ultra race in the Lake District, to assist where I could those who oddly find running 100km taxing on their bodies. In the pre-dawn light before the start, I was introduced to a competitor’s girlfriend, who looked at me coyly from under demurely dropped head and smiled. 

Coquettish behaviour of this kind pre-dawn struck me as odd, and when it continued through the morning it started to look thoroughly strange, especially for what might be called an ‘Aussie chick’ (as an Aussie, I am allowed).

‘Oh my god,’ she said, ‘You are a therapist! Please, I slept funny, I have a crick in my neck.’

It is a common idea, this notion that we can sleep one night or a portion of one night and cause damage to our neck and shoulders so we cannot turn our heads properly. But does it make sense?

Here we have muscles in our shoulders capable of bearing enormous weight, and in addition physically shrugging with that weight; and we have neck muscles which when relaxed will happily bear the weight of a head (4.5kg-5kg on average) for the whole day. Can such strong musculature really be damaged by one night on a camping mat in a field?

The answer is in almost all cases a resounding ‘no’.

In most cases, the bad posture one night will simply be the final straw - that horrible stiff-neck, locked-head, shoulder-aching pain with which you greet the new day will in most cases be a symptom of months if not years of subconscious bad neck and shoulder posture.

Now, reasons abound for poor neck and shoulder posture, but in many instances we are looking at a mind/body interplay, with stress and worry being the major culprits (Aussie chick admitted to being a chronic worrier).

Both stress and worry are fear-based reactions: we create a possible outcome of events in our minds, and then we decide we do not like that outcome - and so we must fear it. When we fear something, we protect ourselves in a number of ways, one of them being to draw up our shoulders towards our ears and our heads down.

So, having created something for ourselves to fear (stress or worry about), we set about the business of fearing it - and of tensing our bodies up to protect ourselves from it. And when finally our bodies can take this tensing no longer and our neck and shoulders lock up, we blame one night’s sleep!

The body is a reflection of the mind - the tenseness of fear created in the mind is reflected in the body. And, yes, it can be removed with bodywork. But, until it is addressed at its source, it will always return.

Awareness is the first step - awareness of the state of your mind, and awareness of how that is reflecting in the body. Stress and worry cannot ever influence the outcome of anything; be aware of when you are becoming stressed or worried about something. Examine that fear (for fear it is), become aware of its nature and its origin. Of its futility. Coming to terms with, really and truly accepting, the reality that it is futile is not easy - it requires work and practice.

And sometimes a little help - at Anamaya we offer a variety of talking therapies to assist you to come to terms with your worry and fear; our meditation programs will also vastly assist.

And while you are working on the fear in your mind, take some time to be aware of how that fear is being reflected in your body - are you holding your shoulders up towards your ears, and are you going to blame one bad night’s sleep for a crick in your neck?


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