By Dorthe Krogsgaard and Peter Lund Frandsen, Danmark - May 2004
Finding the direct way to the problem and giving precise cutomized reflexology, is for some reflexologists a new way of thinking. Traditionally, reflexology has had a strong focus on organs and organ systems, and many of our clients present with chronic ailments.
Of course, problems in the movement system should also be dealt with within a holistic framework, but it is possible to include a more goal directed approach to bring immediate relief.
The neck remembers everything! It remembers all the shocks, bumps, wrings, tensions and strains it has been subjected to during a lifetime. It even remembers the traumas of birth.
All connections to and from the head and the rest of the body have to pass through the neck, and it has a much greater influence on our health and well being than most people are aware.
Studying language can tell us quite a bit about the importance of the neck. We are all familiar with sayings such as: ”A pain in the neck”. ”An albatross around his neck”. ”To have a brass neck”. ”To breathe down somebody’s neck”, or ”To stick your neck out”, etc.
The psychosomatic aspect of the neck is also worth noting, many peoples reaction to stress get stuck as a neck problem.
If you posses the skills to effectively Work with neck problems – you will never run out of clients! So, let us take a small tour… round about the neck.
First, let us consider the mechanical construction of the neck. The neck is a delicate and complicated structure, and to function at its best good cooperation is needed between a great number of parts, vertebrae, discs, facet joints, joint capsules, ligaments, muscles and connective tissue. Figure 1 shows some of the many muscles involved in controlling movement of the neck and head.
Figure 1 The deep neck muscles
Working the muscles
A simple way to get an impression of the condition of the neck muscles is to test their trigger points. An active trigger point will be sore with a characteristic radiating pain pattern. Working the point relaxes the muscle.
Muscles can – of course – also be influenced via foot reflexes. Traditionally this has been a somewhat overlooked area for reflexology. It is a common mistake to forget the muscles on the side of the neck the sternocleido¬mastoid and the scalene group. Tightness in these muscles can cause referred pain in the head or down the arm. Touchpoint has described reflexes for these muscles (figure 2).
Figure 2 Foot reflexes for the levator scapulae (3), sternocleidomastoid (4a+b) and the scalenes (5)
The nervous neck
Another important component of the neck is the brain stem and spinal chord. Many of the diffuse and difficult to handle symptoms we see in the practise are related to this area.
High in the neck we find the lower portion of the brain stem protected by the first 2-3 vertebrae. Problems in this region can affect important functions of the brain stem and vice versa. Huge amounts of information picked up by the nerves all around the body come together and undergo the first integration and processing in the high cervical spine. Examples are proprioceptive information from the foot soles used for our sense of balance, sensory inputs from the cranium, sensory information from the diaphragm and organ fascia (via the phrenic nerve), parasympathetic information (via the vagus nerve), etc. Problems in all these regions are closely related to the function of the neck. They may cause - or be caused by - a neck problem.
Posture – an important player
The real cause of many neck problems has to do with inappropriate posture. Therefore, it is a valuable tool for the reflexologist to be able to instruct the client, how to use the body in a way that minimises strain on the neck. It is necessary to look at the person as a whole, starting with the feet and adjust stance and gait in order to shift the weight from “hanging” in the joints to be carried by the muscles. It is hard work but with rewarding effects. We recommend a method devised by Danish Dr. Flemming Vestberg which is introduced on Touchpoints workshops.
Stress – enemy no. 1
Stress is another main cause of neck problems. Maybe we can’t take it away with reflexology, but it is important to know what stress does to your muscles. It gives the client a different understanding of why it is so important to work with and change the stress pattern. We have often experienced how stress counteracts reflexology, blocking its effects until the situation has changed.
Under stress our autonomous nervous system is out of balance, with two much activity in the sympathetic branch. In the muscles this causes the small arteries to contract, and after a while of continuous stress muscular metabolism is affected with a build up of waste products. The tissue becomes hard and sore.
The best way out is relaxation of the musculature, and here reflexology can be a great vicious circle breaker by balancing the autonomous nervous system.
You can get an impression of the client’s stress level by asking, but also by testing the reflexes for the sympathetic nervous system and adrenals.
The direct way to the symptom
Having taught the client about posture and stress it is time to find a direct way to the present symptoms and give as precise impulses as possible.
An obvious strategy is working reflexes for the spinal nerves in the neck. Nerve reflexology is a fascinating technique to work with, requiring a special procedure, but feel free to experiment with the points shown here.
Figure 3 Reflex points for the cervical spinal nerves
(By permission from Nico Pauly, Belgium)
This article only leaves space to discuss a few neck issues, but in the workshop “Round about: The Neck” we go in depth with analysis and techniques and procedures for neck problems and their relations to the whole body.