Let’s talk about the Scalenes. These unacknowledged heroes of the body which we don’t even notice until they get mad at you (or me as it currently sits).
So what are they? The Scalenes are a paired set of three muscles that help with stability and movement in the cervical spine. They allow you to flex and rotate your neck by interacting with the first and second ribs. The Scalenes are also accessory muscles of inspiration. In other words, they help you inhale.
Many of us are abusing the Scalenes in many ways from excessive smartphone usage (I’m looking at you, text neck nation), to the repetitive breath-holding some of us are engaged in, and even referred tightness from the glutes or hip (that’s what I did this week). All of these causes have something in common. They restrict the movement of the scalenes causing contraction and possibly misalignment in the cervical spine. Which means, the same solution can serve all of these situations.
So, unsurprisingly, today I want you to disrupt any tension in your Scalenes. If they are not complaining (ie. making your neck hurt), then a simple stretch will suffice.
- Slowly rotate your head forward to bring your chin to your chest, Think of a smooth arc forward, then reverse the stretch so that the back of the head is arching towards your upper back. Come back to center or neutral.
- Slowly tilt your head sideways as if trying to place your ear on your shoulder. Keep the shoulder neutral rather than reaching up to meet your head. Repeat the other side. Note if you have more range of motion in one direction than another. In the best of all possible worlds, they should be equal.
- Slowly turn to look over your right shoulder, nod yes when you get there. Then, repeat the left side.
If you have active discomfort in the stretches above you may need to go deeper and follow the tension to the source.
Not only can ignoring the Scalenes be a literal pain in the neck, but it can also make One restrict airflow on the inhale, which will turn up in the quality of the speaking voice. Pain in the voice can often be interpreted as insecurity or irritation about what one is saying so well worth addressing for that reason alone.
Gina Razón is the principal voice specialist at GROW Voice LLC, a full-service voice and speech studio in Boston’s Back Bay. She has over 16 years of experience both as a teacher of voice and speech, and a voraciously curious voice user. Gina has worked professionally as a classical singer for over a decade and more recently as a professional public speaker. For more information on the studio or to book Gina visit www.growvoice.com.