Neck Extension and Lateral Flexion


Neck Extension and Lateral Flexion

Christine Ruffolo


Plagued by forward head posture and phone-down eyes, the act of tilting the head back can become unnerving.  Used to being underutilized, the cervical spine has to be coaxed into believing extension can be a position of comfort.  The shoulders, jaw, and brain can be manipulated to convince the tissues and central nervous system that skull folding (opposite typical) is an acceptable action.  Cultivating a feeling of safety creates a movement confidence that is then bold enough to take risks.

Separating the shoulder blades spreads the tissues away from the spine, and elevating the shoulders creates a pocket of resistance that the neck needs to fight against to extend:

A hiked trapezius makes this a secure isometric.


Similarly, lifting the shoulder also raises the lower attachment point.  An attempt to keep the greater range of motion as the shoulder is relaxed back to ‘normal’ offers a variable position of stretch — one that pulls from the inner workings of the body instead of the distal.

I refused to change this cover frame.  The fear of looking weird keeps too many from doing what is necessary.  Notice the scalenes flaring up.  Sometimes I like to play a morning game of ‘put on moisturizer without those razor wires popping up’.  Great fun.  I lack the attentional energy for it at night.


After my most recent massage, my therapist said it was my skull that was tight.  Especially where the base meets the neck.  The jaw also intersects there and has a tensioning mechanism for motor control.  In exploring my available jaw movements, I found they were particularly wonky — jerky and jagged.  The following video was taken a few weeks after I had some practice smoothing things out.  I acknowledge my neck muscles bulging out near the end:

Mouth closed then mouth open, with and without the assistance of the lips.  I have a slight underbite and my jaw lilts to the left.  The feature/header photo shows how intertwined the jaw and neck are anatomically.


‘Brain stuff’ can be simplified to the development of movement options.  Figuring out multiple ways to get to the desired outcome uses variability to assess means and defend a choice. Creating an unknown and comparing it to a known melds mind and body into a unified, sensory evaluation tool:


Shaking and bouncing can be used as another means of a neurological reset.  Rhythmic tension can assist in facilitating the ‘on-off’ competency of muscles, especially when they are sourced away from from the place of stiffness:

Shoulder movements added some tugging play and dynamic feels from a different direction.


Excessive tightness, pain, or discomfort is a sign that the way you execute your movement decisions are beyond the body’s capacity to acutely adapt.  They are biomarkers that certain things in certain places are bearing more of a systemic load then they can bear.  Whether it is what you are doing or how you are doing it, you are receiving a signal requesting change.  Honoring this alarm validates both your feelings and your right to to reconsider if the results achieved were actually desired.

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