Treating Neck Problems with Clinical Reflexology

A stiff or painful neck is a common physical condition I regularly treat with Clinical Reflexology. Acute or chronic neck issues may originate from genetic or birth defects, accident or trauma, poor posture, age related degeneration and diseases such as arthritis. Whilst symptoms arising from problems in the neck such as headaches, shoulder mobility, tingling fingers etc… may be treated individually. It is far more effective in the long term and more beneficial for the patient for the therapist to identify and treat the cause. I combine the use of Clinical Reflexology and acupuncture methodology with a working knowledge of the structure of the neck. The cervical spine, muscles and especially the cervical nerves. Namely the precise position and following the direction of action of efferent motor nerves ( from the brain to action muscles) via Myotomes and afferent sensory nerves (to the brain) via Dermatomes (these are mapped on the body). If a cervical nerve becomes irritated or compressed, it may cause pain and/or dysfunction that correlates to its dermatome for sensations and/or myotome for motor control.

There are 8 cervical nerves that exit the cervical spine (C1 being an exception with no dermatome). Each of these nerves relays sensation (including pain) from a particular region of skin to the brain).   

C1, C2, and C3 (the first three cervical nerves) help control the head and neck, including movements forward, backward, and to the sides. The C2 dermatome handles sensation for the upper part of the head, and the C3 dermatome covers the side of the face and back of the head. (C1 does not have a dermatome.) C4 helps control upward shoulder movements. C4 (along with C3 and C5) also helps power the diaphragm—the sheet of muscle that stretches to the bottom of the rib cage for breathing. The C4 dermatome covers parts of the neck, shoulders, and upper part of arms. C5 helps control the deltoids (which form the rounded contours of the shoulders) and the biceps (which allow bending of the elbow and rotation of the forearm). The C5 dermatome covers the outer part of the upper arm down to about the elbow. C6 helps control the wrist extensors (muscles that control wrist extension) and also provides some innervation to the biceps. The C6 dermatome covers the thumb side of the hand and forearm. C7 helps control the triceps (the large muscle on the back of the arm that straightens the elbow) and wrist extensor muscles. The C7 dermatome goes down the back of the arm and into the middle finger. C8 helps control the hands, such as finger flexion (handgrip). The C8 dermatome covers the little finger side of the hand and forearm.

Using reflexology, applying pressure at precise intervals along the bone on the medial edge of the big toe ( cervical spine 1-8 ) tender spots may be experienced by the patient indicating areas of concern. Any tenderness experienced from applying pressure to the lateral side of the big toe indicates involvement of the sternocleidomastoid muscle nerves of the neck. Linking to the nerve supply to the trapezius and deltoid muscles of the upper back and shoulder will enable these muscles to relax. Improving flexibility of the cervical spine and mobility of the neck. The same principles can be applied using the thumb of the hand.

Stress is a huge trigger for neck problems as emotions can affect how the physical body reacts. Poor posture, sleep and mobility can be the result of not recognising when the body is reacting to stress. How often have you found your shoulders up under your ears and the relief experienced when you let them drop back into their natural position. Chronic neck immobility can occur when we are no longer able to drop our shoulders or turn our head as the muscle spasms become so deeply embedded that the muscles involved believe this is the norm. Chronic neck muscle spasm shortens muscle pulling the ligaments and tendons that attach muscle to muscle and muscle to bone. This process may adversely affect the natural position of the cervical spine. Pinching nerves causing pain and restricting blood flow to the brain resulting in a fuzzy brain or a change in mood and cognitive ability. It may also affect the natural posture of the head, creating a lean to the left or right. This may affect balance and impede the function of the twelve cranial nerves… another article I think! If you are experiencing a pain in the neck… or in any other area remember that pain is the body’s way of issuing a warning, always listen to your body.