Mr. Mer had so much fun with last weeks’ stretching and mirror blog that, if you don’t mind, he would like to do another one. But he was very insistent that he needed to hit the wool before the next shoot.( He wanted to increase his bulk, especially in his upper arms and quads. I am not sure why a mer-man needs quads but ok, fine. I did some quick colour blending with the hand carders to help him out.) Unfortunately this past week in Ottawa has been overcast with grey clouds, drizzle and today, more snow. So not the best weather for colour blending but I did my best.
While I worked, I figured I should explain to him why we can have problems with the muscles in the neck and into upper shoulders.
“Think of your head as a bowling ball balancing precariously on a short Dowel. To help keep it from falling off there are two sets of cords at the front and 2 sets at the back.” I said as I brought wisps of the green colours from his fishy parts up to integrate it with his low and mid back. Then as I continued to explain, I added a yellowed skin tone base and more definition in his arms.
The front cords are called SCM (Sternocleidomastoid) which is one of my most favorite muscles in the whole body!! You have one on either side of your neck and they are amazing! Their name tells you where they are going and where they have been. They attach on the skull at the mastoid process, It’s a bump behind your ear, then head inferior to split and attach to the superior medial clavicle and the superior border of the Manubrium which is the top bone of the sternum. But wait, this muscle gets even better! When you use (Contract) only one of the two you get Ipsolateral contralateral rotation!!! Is that not the coolest thing ever!!! Ok that means that it tips your ear towards your shoulder and then rotates your chin in the opposite direction. Now you see how cool it is!!
Balancing with the two front cables (SCM) are the 2 back cables called Levator scapulae. They’re cool too. They are the elevators of the scapulae (shoulder blades). The inferior attachment is to the superiomedial scapula and the superior attachments are to the transverse processes of the upper 4 cervical vertebra. Think of them as like the Darth Vader of muscles. They can get the Suboccipitals or upper traps in trouble then look all innocent and claimed they didn’t start all the unhappiness.
Levator scapula is located under the upper traps muscle, which you can see draping over the upper back and shoulder.
The felting needle indicates the area of the superior attachment to the transverse processes of the upper four cervical vertebrae.
The felting needle is a little high but is trying to indicate the inferior attachment which is to the superiomedial scapula
Today we are going to look at Levator scapulae. Which is used when you stare (it stabilizes your head); at your artwork, the computer, a good book or where your needles are heading so you do not stab yourself. The longer you work without remembering to take a break, the grumpier they tend to get. Luckily, there is a stretch for them. Think of it as “visually checking to see if your armpit smells”. You are just looking out of the corner of your eye. You don’t have to get your nose into your armpit (that would be very uncomfortable). You may have to adjust the position a bit depending on the section of the muscle that is tight. Some patients find it feels like the correct stretch when they are looking out of the corner of their eye towards their thigh rather than their armpit.
Now if Mr. Mer will stop hamming it up with dramatic death scenes we can break down the stretch for you.
Make sure you move only in comfort. A feeling of pulling is fine but not a feeling of pain. If pain starts, back up just a bit on the movement. My teachers suggested it was preferable to do the movements separately, tip and then rotate. Add the pulling with the arm if needed. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds but stop if it is uncomfortable.
Mr Mer has been felting with his right hand and has been finding tension building in the Right Levator scapula so he tips his left ear towards his left shoulder. Make sure both shoulders are down and relaxed (they will sometimes try to help by coming up. That isn’t really helpful) If you need to keep the shoulder from cheating sit on your Right hand or hold on to the seat of the chair with it.
While keeping your ear close to your shoulder rotate your head so you are peeking out of the corner of your eye at your armpit. Sometimes you will find the feeling of the stretch by looking more at your thigh that is ok too.
If you feel like you would like a bit more intensity to your stretch, you can use the hand of the arm you are looking towards and gently rest it on your head. If you feel like you would like to increase the stretch try a gentle pull diagonally, down towards the thigh.
Adjust the angles until you feel the tugging of the stretch from the top of the shoulder blade to the upper neck. Sometimes you feel the edge of upper traps on the top of the shoulder. It’s still a good stretch but you’re one muscle over from the one you are looking for. Keep adjusting ear tip and head rotation and add a bit of a tug until you find that “AHHHH” spot.
Mr Mer says he is feeling half relaxed and will do the other side after the blog is done. “Don’t forget to use your Mirror to check your shoulder isn’t trying to be helpful and sneak up while you are doing your stretch”
Sometimes in the planning stage of a project we can spend a lot of time web surfing, looking at information for what must be only minutes but strangely seems to have been hours when I consult the clock! Mr. Mer and I hope this stretch may help if you too get lost in lots of great idea generating hours on the computer!