I’ve been in the process of moving for the past week — what a job! Right now I have stuff stored all over the place; friends garages (2 of them), a storage shed, and a few things in assorted friends homes. As for me, I’m staying at a friend’s house for the next two weeks until I can move into my apartment. Which brings me to the topic of today’s blog.
Gabriele (my generous friend) was in a great deal of pain this morning, her head felt like it was going to explode and she was sick to her stomach from the pain. When I looked at the angle of her pillows I could see immediately what was happening. Gabriele’s THREE pillows were at an angle resting up against the headboard, as a result when she would lie down (on her side) her shoulder was on the mattress but her head was at an angle pointing up toward the ceiling. This angle causes her head to actually be severely tilted to the side, putting pressure directly onto her spinal cord at the base of her brain.
Your first two cervical vertebrae are key to this problem. C1, nicknamed “Atlas,” is the base that holds the weight of your skull, and C2, nicknamed “Axis,” has a point that goes through the center of C1 and your skull is sitting on that point. It is because of the point (actually called “dens”) that we can turn our heads left and right, and back and forth. A muscle called levator scapulae, nicknamed “the shrug muscle” because it lifts your shoulders up when you shrug, originates on C1-C4 and inserts into top of your shoulder blade. It will help you if you look at the levator scapulae muscle and realize that the insertion point (shoulder blade) always moves toward the origination point (C1-C4).
While you look at the muscle, think about what happens when you are lying on your side and your head is leaning over toward your shoulder (as it was with my friend while she slept with her head at this angle). To stay with the graphic of the muscle, let’s say your are sleeping on your right side, your pillow is too thick and is forcing your head to lean toward your left shoulder. The muscle shortens and muscle memory (subject for another blog) causes it to stay tight, pulling the bones in that direction — and then you turn to your opposite side, really causing a problem.
If you have already read about repetitive strain injuries and how they cause pain to refer to areas that may be far from the spasms, you’ll be able to understand what is happening here. You need to apply direct pressure on the muscles, hold it until the muscle releases the tension, and then gently move your head in the opposite direction. Feel around for all the tight points and treat each one the same way. You can do it, it’s just a matter of finding each of the trigger points, pressing deeply enough to make a difference, and being focused – not rubbing around the entire area but staying on the trigger point.
To complete the story of Gabriele, she’s fine now, her headache is all gone and she is thrilled that she knows how to release the tension before it gets bad enough to cause a headache – plus she’s changing her pillow set-up so it won’t happen again.
Looking at your pillow and how your head/neck are positioned while you sleep could make all the difference in the world to you too!
Have a great day,