The neck is dense with anatomical structures. Bone, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and lymph nodes compact into a contained space that connects the brain and sensory organs with the rest of the body.
When you have a stiff neck, the muscles contract and press against the many structures in this tunnel-like space, which may be the culprit behind your headaches, sinus congestion, ear pain, eye pain, TMJ, or numbness and tingling of the arms, hands, and fingers.
Just to give you a sense of just how much stuff is squeezed into your neck, we are listing its major anatomical components, with a bit of physiology to make some sense of it all. Keep in mind this is a partial list, with none of the ligaments or tendons listed. It’s hard to fathom, but there’s so much more than you see, below:
In the sub-occipital region of the neck, directly adjacent to the skull, there is a pivot joint that enables the ability to rotate the head freely, made up of the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2). There are 5 additional cervical vertebrae, with the same structure as the upper and lower back. Other significant bony structures in the neck are the hyoid bone and cricoid cartilage.
Muscles at Back of Neck
Cervical multifidi, Levator scapulae, Longissimus capitis, Longus capitis, Longus colli, Obliquus capitus superior, Obliquus capitus inferior, Rectus capitis posterior minor, Rectus capitis posterior major, Rectus capitis posterior minor, Rectus capitis posterior major, Rotators, Spinalis capitis, Semispinalis capitis, Splenius capitis, Splenius cervicis, Sternocleidomastoid, Trapezius.
Muscles at Front of Neck
Digastric, Laryngeal, Myohyoid, Omohyoid, Platysma, Scalenes: anterior, middle, and posterior, Sternothyroid, Thyroidhyoid.
The major nerves of the neck are the Greater Auricular, Greater Occipital, Lesser Occipital, the Cervical nerves of which there are 8 pairs, Transverse Cervical, Accessory, Brachial Plexus, Vagus, Phrenic, and the Laryngeal.
Arteries and Veins
The major blood vessels of the neck are the Brachiocephalic trunk artery, External and Internal Jugular veins, Internal Carotid and External arteries, Internal and External Carotid arteries, Right Common Carotid artery, Subclavian artery, Suprascapular artery, the Vertebral artery.
Physiological Structures are divided by function. 1. Alimentary: esophagus and pharynx. 2. Respiratory: larynx and trachea. 3. Endocrine: thyroid and parathyroid glands. 4. Lymph Nodes which run throughout the neck, jaw, and upper shoulder.
What to Do For a Stiff Neck
We commonly see stiff necks and shoulders in our practice. Add to the equation the repetitive physical strain of poor posture, daily work and personal stress, and the problem is compounded.
Acupuncture and exercises are the shortest distance between the two points between pain and relief: you have to take care of neck and shoulder pain and stiffness by being proactive. If you haven’t yet experienced acupuncture, it feels like a subtle massage to the inside of the muscles.
Acupuncture has over one hundred named acupuncture points in the head and neck. Balanced with body points, acupuncture treatment will bring relief for longer and longer periods of time with each subsequent session, until the “muscle memory” is knocked out. Exercises that stretch and strengthen the deep muscles of the neck reinforce the acupuncture treatment.
If you have questions and concerns about acupuncture treatment, we offer a free 20-minute phone session: click here for contact information to call or e-mail us. We practice at The Highlands Ranch Medical Pavilion in Littleton, Colorado.
Insurance is welcome and accepted.