GOT TEXT NECK?
Tui Na and Tai Chi May Help
Let’s face it, we all use our phones A LOT. It comes with modern life, but it also means we’re constantly looking down. This unnatural position adds strain and after a long day, you’re probably feeling the effects of this. This condition is often referred to as ‘text neck’, referencing the often obsessive relationship many people have developed with responding to each and every text at a frequent and rapid pace. Luckily, there are several practices in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that can help. Two of the most sought after for neck problems include tui na and tai chi.
In Chinese, tui na is translated to mean “pinch and pull”. This form of therapeutic massage is often described as being similar to an acupressure massage. It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily the same kind of gentle and relaxing massage that you might be familiar with. It truly is body work.
Tui na practitioners are experts who can feel your body and tell exactly what it needs without you even having to say what’s bothering you. The therapist will work to rebalance the body’s energy, or qi, that might be out of harmony and causing the pain. This is accomplished through the use of specific pressure points along the body’s meridian lines. Where an acupuncturist might place a needle, the tui na therapist will massage, stretch, rotate, and place pressure.
Tui Na for Neck Pain
Why is tui na one of TCM’s best secrets for neck pain? A study on the effect of tui na on patients with chronic neck pain showed that the practice was highly successful. It not only relieved pain and discomfort, but reversed the pre-existing potential threats to brain function. Tui na is designed as a treatment that works directly on the areas of discomfort, providing relief fairly quickly. Many practitioners say that this type of massage not only relaxes and relieves stress, but provides patients with a renewed sense of energy.
What to Expect at Your Tui Na Appointment
Unlike a Western therapeutic massage, you won’t necessarily have to disrobe for your tui na appointment. While some will follow the typical rules of massage, others can perform the movements needed with clothing on. Massage oils are also used, so be sure to let your therapist know if you have any allergies that might be triggered by the oils. They’re most often used on the back, hands, feet, or neck.
During your tui na treatment, the therapist should be very adept at determining your problem areas simply from touch. Based on this information they will know where to focus their attention during your treatment to help rebalance the energy causing your neck pain and ease the symptoms. Most appointments for tui na are between 30 minutes to one hour in length.
Tai chi is considered a low-impact exercise that requires the power of both the mind and body for success. Based around the teachings of TCM, tai chi consists of completing a series of strategic and therapeutic movements while maintaining consistent breath. It is often credited as a gentle way to fight stress and anxiety while strengthening the mind.
Tai chi can be practiced anywhere; outdoors, indoors, in your own home, or at a group class. Similarly to meditation and yoga it can easily become part of the morning or evening daily routines to provide a sense of calm while providing healing to areas of the body suffering from tension and stress, like those pesky neck pains. You’ll also benefit from work to improve flexibility, balance, and muscle strength.
Tai Chi for Neck Pain
Typically, tai chi is suggested for those suffering from arthritis, back pain, or mental health concerns, or as a gentle exercise option. New research is making it a viable option for neck issues. Similarly to tui na, studies on tai chi for those with chronic neck pain have shown positive results. In a study of 114 people with chronic neck pain divided into groupings of 12 weeks worth of tai chi, simple exercises, and a control group, the tai chi group’s pain was reduced significantly compared with the control. The group performing stretching exercises also showed improvement.
What to Expect at Your Tai Chi Class
There are a few things to keep in mind before attending your tai chi class. Tai chi can be practiced by anyone, at nearly any age. Class demographics can vary from place to place, so be open minded and try a few groups to find the best fit for you. You should wear comfortable and loose clothing that allows you full range of movement and is appropriate for the temperature of the area you’ll be practicing in. Be sure to notify your instructor of any concerns or health conditions prior to class, and pay attention so that you follow their instructions as closely as possible.
5 More Ways to Protect Your Neck
If tui na or tai chi aren’t cutting it for you, there are several other preventative methods to help keep your neck from excess tension or injury. These are 5 simple ways to adjust your lifestyle so you can protect your neck while checking your social media.
- Do You Know How to Sit Properly?
Maintaining good posture is key to keeping your neck healthy and pain-free; and this applies both to standing and sitting. Many of us tend to slouch, lean our necks at odd angles or improperly align our spines when we’re sitting. These small bad habits can result in uncomfortable pains when repeated frequently.
So next time you take a seat, make sure you sit with your bottom and back pressed to the back of the chair. Your feet should comfortably reach the ground with a few inches under your knees. It’s also best to avoid reclining straight up at a 90 degree angle; a slight lean at 100 to 110 degrees tends to be best. If you’re working or eating, be sure that all your materials are within reach to prevent unnecessary straining.
- Choose the Right Pillow for You
Your pillow is supposed to be a symbol of rest and relaxation, but could it be making your neck problems worse? Making sure your pillow is the correct size, shape, firmness, and height might be the key to reducing your neck pain. If you’ve noticed that your neck is constantly tilted at an angle during sleep, it’s likely that your neck is out of alignment with the spine during sleep, causing strain and pressure. The pillow should maintain alignment, allowing for the natural curve of the neck but not overdoing it. You might need to find a flatter or fuller pillow depending on your specific needs.
- Get An Assist with Acupuncture
Another treatment that’s part of the core of TCM, acupuncture can help relieve stress, pain, and work to create harmony within the body’s energy. Using very thin needles to stimulate key points (some of the same ones used in your tui na massage), acupuncture is a more direct way to accessing the meridian channels. For treating neck pain specifically, you might find that your acupuncturist will place needles in seemingly unrelated areas like the hands, feet, and back. This is because the neck is part of a vital area that sends blood to the head, shoulders, and arms and is connected to many of the extraneous limbs. Talk with your TCM practitioner if acupuncture is the right treatment to help your neck pain.
- Raise it Up
Simply adjusting how you use your phone can make a massive difference in the amount of tension that builds up in your neck. Typically, many people hold their phones low around chest or waist level. This causes the dreaded text neck, a hunching of the shoulders and forward extension of the neck that can trigger strain. By simply lifting your phone up to eye-level, you can retain your good posture and save yourself some stress.
- Try Some Simple Neck Stretches
Actively stretching and strengthening your neck muscles throughout the day can help release that pent up tension. Try planning for two to four brief stretch intervals throughout your day, perhaps right after you wake up, during lunch, mid-afternoon, and before bedtime. Then take five minutes to cycle through a few simple neck stretches.
First, bring your shoulders up towards your ears, hold for five counts and then release. Repeat three times. Next, roll the shoulders in big circles backwards and forwards five to 10 times each. Then, gently lean your head to each side, aiming for the ear to touch the shoulder. Hold each side for five to 10 counts as you breathe deeply. You can then turn the head to look over each shoulder while holding for five to 10 counts. Be sure to always practice these stretches slowly and carefully to avoid injury.