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Dr. Rick's Health Tip of the Month

August 2000

Stretch those Scalenes!

By Rick Allen, DC

This month's Instep article describes the problems that develop when the scalene muscles of the neck become shortened with the all-too-common forward head posture. So take preventative action: stretch those scalenes! Earlier this year, in a continuing education seminar, fellow chiropractor Marc Heller provided the helpful tips that are shown below:

Neck Stretch 1

Scalene (Front of Neck)

(example is for the left side)

  1. Use your Right hand, either the edge of your fingers, or your thumb. Find the tight muscle by sliding your hand above and then behind the collar bone. Hold the muscle down.

  2. Keep the chin tucked. Tip (side-bend) your head away from your hand. You can tip your head back a little if it helps. Try rotating your head toward or away from your hand, seeing which direction gets you a better stretch to the front of your neck. Move only until you begin to feel the stretech in the front of your neck. Neck Muscles diagram

  3. You can fine tune by changing the angles of motion slightly, or move the holding hand.

  4. It may helpto first tip your head toward the hand, then hold the muscle down, then tip your head away. Feel for the tightest fibers.

  5. Hold the streatch while breathing, for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 1-2 times. Or, slowly go in and out of the stretch positon, repeating 3-10x. Do this stretch 2x per day. You can do this excercise more often if it is helpful.

  6. Gently stretch, don't overdo.

Neck Exercise 2

Neck Pull-Back

This is a simple postural exercise, to remind you not to lead with your chin. Keeping the chin tucked, bring your head back. Lift your chest. Doing this frequently during the day can help retrain your neck posture. You can put your hand on the front of the neck muscles (scalenes) to make sure they are not tightening as you pull back.

You can do a variation of this while lying on your back. Put your hand behind your neck to monitor, and pull your neck back toward the floor, keeping your chin tucked.

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