Last month I was sharing how keeping chronic tension and contraction in our bodies could deplete our energy. We started to explore the jaw, one of the key zones where tensions can accumulate.
Let’s continue our exploration with another key zone: the suboccipitals.
Behind the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) of the jaw lie 8 small deep muscles which connect our skull (more precisely with the occipital bone thus their name suboccipitals) and the spine with the first two cervicals, the atlas and the axis. In total, they are 4 pairs of muscles: rectus capitis posterior minor, rectus capitis posterior major, obliquus capitis superior, obliquus capitis inferior.
These muscles are really special: their primary role is not locomotor. Very rich in sensorial receptors, they inform our brain of the position of our head in space and participate in the balance and posture of the entire body. This deep muscular cervical system is directly linked to the spinal cord (though the dura mater) and functions in synergy with the eyes and the inner ear.
This important crossroad is often a storage center for a great deal of the head and neck tension that so many people feel. Furthermore, many studies show a link between tension in the upper cervical spine and headache, neck or jaw tensions. For example, a study from Hu (1995) has shown that, by improving the tonus of the recti capiti posterior minor the blood blow in the dura mater is normalized and hence the tonus in the jaw and neck is also normalized (normalizing the tonus means that the muscle is not too tense nor too relaxed).
The overstimulation of our eyes is a primary source of tension for the suboccipitals. The increasing use of screens is of course part of the story… but not only. I will come back to this in a future newsletter! If the eyes can contract the suboccipital zone, they can also relax it 🙂
Let’s explore this in this month’s practice!
(C) The image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.1 Japan license.