Why Won't Those Shoulders Come Down?

2007 Lawrence Gold 6/13/2007 9:07 AM
Certified Hanna Somatic Educator

Y ou may have asked that question of yourself.

Your client has raised shoulders and a shortened, thickened neck and pandiculation hasn't produced the expected outcome.

The answer is simple, if not obvious: trauma Reflex, where the trauma has involved neck movement. Shoulders come up as part of a reflexive protecting of the neck. The term is, "somatic retraction."

There are two movements involved: shortening the neck, the way a turtle does when pulling into its shell, and raising the shoulders. Try it. The two movements integrate into one unified action.

When a neck injury, or even a threat of injury such as a less-severe whiplash incident, is involved, no amount of work on shoulder position will bring those shoulders down; the problem is with the neck. Your client needs to come out of somatic retraction.

How do you bring that about?

Teach your client to free his or her neck movements. The major muscles of neck retraction are the scalenes, but others are likely to be involved. Seen from the top, a cross-section of the scalenes, which connect the mid-to-upper neck to the upper two or three ribs, looks something like an asterisk:

with the cervical spine at the center. Examine through gentle, three-dimensional palpation and movements. Have your client turn from side to side. See where the restrictions are.

Freeing scalenes involves first showing your client how each of the bands of scalene muscles causes him or her to move: "means-whereby." With your client supine, locate a contracted band of muscle by palpation. Trace it along its length to feel its line of pull, then move your passive client exactly along that line. Have him feel the sensation of that movement and then recreate it through movement. That's the first step to teaching control.

After that, I use a combination of movement actions combined into a single action with a unified purpose: to contract, not just the scalenes, but other parts of the body in a way that gives a feel for how to control the act of retraction. Specificity is necessary, as without it, your client is likely to by-pass the scalenes, over which he has little control, and substitute the sterno-cleido-mastoid or other muscles, over which he has better control. For that reason, simple sideways head and neck movements are generally ineffective for this purpose.

There are pandicular sequences for the anterior scalenes, lateral scalenes, and posterior scalenes. There is also a sequence for locating and freeing the sub-occipital muscles and the deep, anterior muscles that line the throat. These sequences are too complex to describe in a brief article, alone, sorry to say, but I can say that they involve the legs and pelvis, breathing, one or both arms, one or both shoulders, and the neck. A combination of means-whereby, pandiculation, and kinetic mirroring is involved; with that combination, results come quickly. Earlier versions of the scalene and sub-occipital muscle maneuvers appear in The Handbook of Assisted Pandiculation, but the best way to learn the maneuvers is through direct training, since feel is all-important.

It happens that the same maneuvers are effective for reducing and stopping migraine headaches and also for clearing up thoracic outlet syndrome, which is characterized by tingling, burning, and/or numbness down the arms into the hands.

Contact me if you are interested either in instructional materials or in a special training occasion.
Email: awareness@somatics.com
phone: 505 819-0858

Point and click underlined items for access
Instruction for Easier Clinical Sessions
Clinical Methods
Clinical Somatic Education to End Headaches
  • A Fresh Look at Lesson 1: The Landau Reaction Lesson
  • Lesson 1 Didn't Work? Now What? Here's What. -- pandicular maneuvers of a lower-extremities lesson to complement Lesson 1
    on DVD
    by Lawrence Gold
  • The Five-Pointed Star
    by Lawrence Gold, C.H.S.E.

    a series of integrated movements to free the somatic center and produce rapid improvements of strength, flexibility and mobility

    The Handbook of Assisted Pandiculation
    for the lower extremities, breathing, upper extremities, neck, jaws and head

    illustrated with 300 photographs
    by Lawrence Gold, C.H.S.E.


    The Guidebook of Somatic Transformational Exercises
    by Lawrence Gold, C.H.S.E.

    The Institute for Somatic Study and Development
    Santa Fe, NM
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