Is Your Neck Discomfort Related to This?

Do you struggle with neck tightness.?  Is turning your head sometimes nearly impossible or at least quite uncomfortable?

Do you need to constantly stretch your neck or move it around, looking for a comfortable position?

We have been talking this month about your rib cage connections to your head, neck, arms, core, and spine.

In this installment, we are going to:

  1. Have you checked four muscles in your neck that are attached to your rib cage that, when ‘tight’ can restrict how your head and neck move
  2. Discuss what may be driving the tightness 
  3. Give you some strategies for you to try


Let's get started:

  • Stand in front of a mirror.
  • Turn your head to the right. Return to center.  Turn to the left. Return to center.
  • Repeat three times. 
  •  Do you feel a difference side-to-side?
  •  When you do this, do you notice your torso moving as well?

Now check:

  • Bring your right ear down towards your right shoulder.
  • Return to center.  Bring your left ear down towards your left shoulder.
  • Return to center.
  • Repeat three times.
  •  Do you feel a difference side-to-side?
  •  When you do this, do you notice your shoulders moving as well as you do this?

Let’s investigate which neck muscles that may be restricting your movement.

  • Place your hands on your collarbones.
  • Walk them to the center to the notch between them. 
  • One at a time, at the notch on either side, gently push back into the muscle attached here. 

This is your sternocleidomastoid muscle.  (Yes, that is fun to say)

You can track this muscle all the way up your neck at an oblique angle to the end, where it attaches to the bump just behind your ear.

Does this muscle feel tender when you touch it?  Does it feel like a taught wire?  Do you notice differences between the two sides and how the muscles feel?

Next, we will find the scalene muscles collectively.

  • Return to the notch of your collarbones. 
  • Slide your fingers toward the center of your collarbones.
  • One at a time, gently sink into the area just off the top of your collarbones.
  • Slide gently side-to-side across these thin muscles. 
  • These muscles run up the side of your neck and attach to the sides of the upper vertebrae in your neck or cervical spine.
  • How do they feel?  Do they feel like piano wires or pliable?  Do they feel different from side to side?


Now that you know where these muscles are and what they do. (Turn and bend your head and neck side-to-side.) Let’s see if they are contributing to your decreased motion.


Looking at your shoulder in the mirror.  Does one shoulder appear lower than the other?

If you answered yes, repeat the movement that felt most restricted.

If you feel your right shoulder is lower, was it turning your head and bending your head to the left that felt harder?

If you said yes, that it felt more restricted turning or bending your head and neck away from the lower side shoulder, it might be that the lower shoulder position is putting pressure on those neck muscles and stretching them out like stretching a rubber band.


Let’s try an exercise and see if we can change that.

  • Place your thumbs into your armpits or as high up as possible if you can.
  • Let your arms relax once you are in this position.
  • Take very gentle breaths in and out slowly through your nose, sending your breath into your thumbs.  
  • As you exhale, imagine your ribs opening like a hand fan along the sides, creating space in your ribs. 
  • If this cue does not resonate with you, try thinking of your collarbones getting longer out towards your shoulders as you exhale.
  • Repeat 5-8 gentle breaths.

Now, return the mirror.

Check your shoulders.  Do you notice any difference?

Check the neck motions again.

Do you notice any change?

There are a few common reasons why these muscles get tight.

  1. Being overstretched as we just looked at here.
  2. Overuse and incorrect use of these muscles during activities like quiet breathing.

These neck muscles that attach to the rib cage primarily turn and bend your head and neck.

Secondarily, they will assist with breathing during activities where you breathe heavily or incorrectly.

When we put repetitive stress through these muscles from posture, exercise injury, and incorrect breathing, they will restrict motion, which can have a cascade of effects as we compensate for the lack of movement.

Perhaps you did not see or feel a change with this little exercise.  Finding the cause of restrictions, chronic tightness, etc., can be challenging.  Lucky for you, if you are reading this, you know an IMS professional who can help you.


Reach out.  We are here to help.


Your body.  Your move.


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