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Reasoned Considerations

Read previous blogs from 2021

Read previous blogs from 2022

I have less bones!

By January 20th 2023

drawing with bones on the side of the neck
Illustration: I have less bones!

I have been working with a thirteen-year-old complaining about back issues. We had a few movement sessions in which we applied F.M. Alexander’s ideas and principles

Text neck

As always, during our interaction, we chat, we exchange ideas, and we focus on the general before going to the specifics. So, one of the first things we did was work with the head/neck relationship with the body in movement as it is the key to freedom and ease of motion (Weed).

That relationship was very rigid and very stiff. As many teenagers and older people, our Wellbeing Improver tends to lead her chin towards her screen; she has what is called at times a ‘text neck’ or a ‘tech neck’. Rather than moving from her hip joints which would give her a greater range of motion, she moves from her neck, which translates into her neck being forward relative to her body. As she does this nth times during her day, she finds herself in chronic pain in her back.

During our session, experimenting moving from the hip joint, rather than from the neck to look at her screen when she wants to get closer to it, Wellbeing Improver managed to stop her usual movement behaviour.

The payoff of a different pathway

As a result of that change, she had more movement in her head/neck relationship and was moving her head and her body to look at the screen in a different manner. That different pathway brought about more mobility and eased the pain she was experiencing in her back.

I have less bones!

What she found out for herself was that she had “less bones in her neck”! Bones have the ability to move in relation to one another and those in the neck form the cervical spine. She was not, however, talking of those bones. She was referring to the ‘bones’ on the side of her neck. You would be right to ask: which bones on the side of the neck?

A bit of background information

Bones, muscles, and connective tissues (fascia) are usually defined as distinct entities. However, while the embryo develops, bones, muscles and connective tissues all originates from the cells of the mesenchyme. Bones, muscles and connective tissues are specialisation of the same tissue and can then be said to be on a spectrum from + soft to + hard. If so, one can say that bones are “mineralized condensation of fascia” (Scarr 2018). Levin also says that bones “are soft-matter gels, that may have either a rigid or compliant phase”.

If it can be so of bones, there is no reason why it cannot also be so for muscles: they can have a rigid and a compliant phase.

What was happening?

From what our teenage Wellbeing Improver said one can infer that the muscles on the side of her neck were heading more towards a rigid phase, which is not usually their permanent biological phase. By being constantly more towards the rigid phase, the side neck muscles were also modifying the geometry of the structures of the neck.

It is not that she had less bones in her neck, it is that the side muscles stopped being on a rigid phase, a rigidity Wellbeing Improver associates with ‘being a bone’.

Exploring new ideas and having a different understanding brought about positive changes. Judging by Wellbeing Improver’s smile, the ‘loss of a few bones’ was not such a bad thing!

You might also be interested in:

Moving our head (April 2022)

An Everyday Activity: sitting and getting closer

By January 10th 2023

Illustration: People sitting, getting closer to desks
Illustration: People sitting

This is a very likely everyday activity for any of us: getting closer to something while we are sitting.

We might want to get closer to a computer screen, to a canvass, to a magazine, to a music sheet, to a work top, and so on.

Same activity in different situations; still same discomfort

So, getting closer while sitting can happen in a job situation or in a leisure situation. Both environments could lead us to say something like: my back is hurting, my neck is hurting, my shoulders are hurting. As this can happen both in a work and in a leisure capacity, should we put the blame entirely onto desk jobs for all our discomfort, aches and pains?

Several choices: which one to go for?

One of the first things to ask ourselves is perhaps: how are we going to get closer to a table, a desk, a cavass, etc, while sitting?

There usually seems to be several scenarios we can choose from such as:

We use primarily our neck;

We use primarily our hip joints;

We use our neck and a little bit of the hip joints;

We use our hip joints primarily and fine tune with our neck.

All are going to get us closer to a table, screen, or canvass. They differ, for example, in efficiency, in the amount of energy involved and in the range of movement achieved, i.e. the extent (the range) a joint can move or be moved.

The range of movement of the neck in flexion is 40 to 60 degrees and in extension 45 to 70 degrees. As for the hip joints, the range of movement in flexion is 0 to 125 degrees and in extension 115 to 0 degrees.

Making a reasoned choice rather than blaming the situation

Moving efficiently and appropriately depends on the present circumstances we find ourselves in.

From the flexion range mentioned above, we can see that the hip joints have a bigger range of motion than the neck.

So, should we want to move closer to something, such as a table or a screen, while sitting, it is likely to prove more efficient and less costly in energy to bend from the hip joints rather than the neck.

Once most of the travelling happened at the hip joints, fine tuning can be achieved using the neck.

Moving in such a way could solve a few of our discomforts, aches, and pains. If this is so, we are part of the problem, and this could leave part – or even the whole – desk-job-blamed situation off the hook.

Moving from the hip joints: an illustration

A Wellbeing Improver wanted to explore painting while sitting as she was experiencing back pain in her lower back while performing that activity. She surmised her bad posture was to blame.

Part of her problems resided in her concept of posture as it implied, for her, some rigidity.

Should we accept the following definition of the Alexander Technique: the Alexander Technique is the study of thinking in relation to movement, instead of a rigid posture, we talk about sets of relationships between body parts in movement. That is the first thing.

Second, moving from the hip joints involves closing the gap between the trunk and the thighs which translates into bending forward.

These two ideas together with some gentle manipulations brought about the following changes:

A change in the head/neck relationship

A change in the relationship of the hip joints and the pelvis

No pain in her lower back

I was also able to observe that she had more movement in her arm, she was not pulling down so much in her lower back, and she was not so close to the table. She, however reported that she was closer to the table. As she was not using her neck so much to get near the table and as she diminished the angle at her hip joints, I can understand why she might say that.

In all evidence, Wellbeing Improver performed her activity differently and did not move in the way she usually did. She did not change her present circumstances, but she stopped some movement behaviours which brought about constructive and positive changes.

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Man's Supreme Inheritance, Alexander, FM [1910] 1996, Sixth edition reprinted with minor corrections December 2002, Mouritz.
This page was last modified on Jan 20 2023 5:32am