Unlock The Eyes To Unlock The Neck

If you work with human bodies, at some point one of them is going to show up with neck pain.

The human spine is a vulnerable bit of architecture as is, but put it into a wholly foreign environment with unnatural behaviors, and problems are bound to crop up.  And when these problems manifest in the neck, it affects function throughout the body.  In this article you'll learn a simple way to help your clients free up tension in the neck, naturally allowing them to find better coordination throughout their movements.

Top-Down Organization

Most of the animal kingdom follows a common trend, and we're no different.  Our bodies are organized along a linear framework that clusters our sensory organs at one end of the body: the head.  Our eyes, ears, nose, and mouth take in a huge amount of information about the outside world, and they're all located at one end of the body. 

This clustering process is called cephalization.  Millions of years of selective pressure make this a pretty convenient way to set up a body.  This way one movement (turning the head) directs the bulk of our sensory organs toward our object of interest.

This sets the stage for one of our most fundamental reflexes, the orienting response, which organizes the body to respond to changes in the environment.  Think: when you notice somebody walk in the room out of the corner of your eye, your whole body responds to get a sense of who that person is.  You shift weight in the hips, your spine rotates, your eyes swivel...all in an effort to get your head squared up with that new person.  

Your eyes are a crucial piece of the puzzle.

We know we're highly visual creatures.  We can demonstrate this easily by testing balance with eyes open and eyes closed.  But the ability of the eyes to move independently from the head is critical to performance of even basic motor tasks (Pelz et al. 2001).  

Unfortunately this head-eye dissociation is a rarity these days.  With so much time spent locked in one position of focus all day--from computer screens, to phones, to TVs--we lose the ability of the eyes to swivel independently.  And this leads to compensations down the chain, with the neck most likely to pick up the slack.  Stressed out by excessive movement, the neck will lock down, and we continue this vicious cycle down the chain.

Let's nip that in the bud.

Deceptively Simple

The trend around here is that we're working with a deceptively simple movement.  

But this small stimulus allows the brain to pick up subtle differences in quality of movement, which leads to big-time improvement in our overall function.  Simply by reteaching the eyes how to work independently of the head, we give ourselves an immediate jumpstart.  

Try it out for yourself, and then take it with you to your next training session.

 

References

1. Pelz J, et al. The coordination of eye, head, and hand movements in a natural task. Exploratory Brain Research. 2001. DOI 10.1007/s002210100745