Neck Strain

Discussion in 'Ballroom Dance' started by mindputtee, Jul 14, 2013.

  1. mindputtee

    mindputtee Well-Known Member

    I tried searching and haven't found any threads that answer my question, if there is one, please point me in the right direction.

    I've been fighting with neck pain/strain for a while now. Back in January at MAC, out of the blue I started to have excruciating pain on the right side of my neck. Turning from closed position to promenade relieved it temporarily, but as I continued to dance rounds, it got worse and came to the point that even turning from one side to the other took great conscious effort and was accompanied with pain. You can even see in some of the pictures the horrible grimace I'm making because it hurt that bad. I thought it was a one time occurrence related to a cold I was getting but the problem, while not as severe, hasn't gone away. Partner and I will often have to stop practice for five-ten minutes so my neck can reset.

    I've gotten many suggestions on ways to reduce it, changes to my position, etc but nothing seems to have lasting effects and quite a few of them make it worse. It happened during a lesson with my coach and his only suggestion was "to take care of myself". I know I am straining my neck, but based on the pictures/video I can't tell where my form is wrong to cause this.

    I've determined that it is my sternocleidomastoid (and possibly sometimes my splenius capitis muscle) that is hurting and it is brought on by spending more time in position without taking breaks, so especially during rounds or back to back dances. If we frequently stop to talk through things, it doesn't act up.

    Any tips or advice would be much appreciated, I'm willing to try anything at this point.

    If it's any help diagnosing the problem, here's a video from my last competition:
    It started to tweak during that round.
  2. anntennis

    anntennis Active Member

    Good chiropractor? The doctor will treat your neck (perhaps, x-rays are necessary to see what could be wrong) for about a month and would give you stretching exercises you can do on your own
  3. latingal

    latingal Moderator Staff Member

    Rolfer has helped me tremendously with these types of things....but you need to get it evaluated.
    samina likes this.
  4. debmc

    debmc Well-Known Member

    Could be a problem with your cervical spine. I'd recommend consult with MD that specializes in neck/spine.he can order an MRI and go from there. I would put a hold on dancing until you know the cause.
  5. dbk

    dbk Well-Known Member

    It doesn't look like you're supporting your head correctly. Along with any medical steps you take (this needs to be your first priority) - see a female standard coach and ask her specifically to teach you how to support your head in the correct way. See several female standard coaches, if possible.

    I don't mean to be insulting, but you should be aware that MANY male coaches have a very murky, less-than-safe idea of follower's poise. They often only know what they need to feel as leaders, and what it should look like. If all your coach can say is "take care of yourself," he is not qualified to teach you this.
    FancyFeet and hereKittyKitty like this.
  6. madmaximus

    madmaximus Well-Known Member

    Absent actual physical/structural damage, your problem may stem from a combination of these two things:

    1. Your head is turned too much to the left that your cheek bone is vertically where your nose/chin should be.

    2. You are holding your neck too tight/tense, which combined with #1 triggers the stress and the long term pain of the said muscle.

    That much is, at least, obvious from your video.

    Dance without turning your head for awhile to relax the muscle and get the pain out, then correct the two factors above.

    m2cw




    m
  7. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    My right SCM is HUGE. I mean really big, when I flex it people cringe and shout OMG. My left is really big too, but not nearly as obnoxious looking as my right. It is probably one of the most important muscles to a lady dancer doing smooth and standard. That being said, it is NOT the SCM that does the majority of work. SCM is the stabilizing muscle... it is not the "working" muscle.

    2 things.

    In fact there is almost NO backward rotation in my neck when I am in closed position. My sternum lifting to an almost horizontal position is what rotates my head backwards, not my neck! The SCM then just keeps the head on the neck and IN LINE with the sternum.

    And then, I can see from the video, and have a vision of you from that day as well, that you are rather flat and square to your partner. The weight of a ladies head falls on the left side of her body and therefore we bring our left sides more forward to counter balance the weight of the head that is behind the spine. The straighter and flatter you are to him, the more your SCM is doing the majority of work to not only turn your head but holding the weight up when you try to pull it back.

    Most ladies have a hard time finding the correct amount of upward sternum rotation and leftward stretch,.... so I have to literally put myself into position, and lay them on top of me to feel where I am, molding them to my shape. It looks like a painful chiropractic adjustment, but in reality you should be relaxing into the position.
    samina, FancyFeet and Mr 4 styles like this.
  8. mindputtee

    mindputtee Well-Known Member

    Thank you all for your replies! As far as seeing a medical professional, I'll have to look into what's covered by insurance. If it ain't, it ain't happening.

    The head turned too left definitely makes sense, I think I got some bad advice about that and it was shortly after that the pain started. My coach is great, and in the context of the lesson with my partner may not have realized how much of a problem it is, but I think a lesson with a female coach is definitely in order.

    Larinda, can you explain what you mean by flat and straight to my partner?
  9. hereKittyKitty

    hereKittyKitty Administrator Staff Member

  10. dlliba10

    dlliba10 Well-Known Member

    When you're flat and straight to your partner, you're two parallel lines shoulder-to-shoulder, connecting each at your respective right sides. To compensate for the position of the head at the top of the spine, there should be a bit of a twist (for lack of a better word -- curve? inclination?) as you grow through the spine to create a slight left-side positivity (and the gentleman should accommodate too). That way it feels supported from the back and spine as opposed to making the head and neck do all the work.
  11. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

  12. llamasarefuzzy

    llamasarefuzzy Well-Known Member

  13. latervet1

    latervet1 Member

    Wow- awesome vid. thanks so much for posting Larinda.
  14. vit

    vit Active Member

    I'm not sure they have hard time FINDING the right amount of rotation/stretch. Spine flexibility is varying greatly from person to person and generally is decreasing with aging, so many ladies have these problems just because their upper part of the spine isn't flexible enough to be able to put their bodies into the big shape (like you are able to do) and still remain relaxed, without unnecessary strain to the neck, so it looks like painful chiropractic adjustment. Not being able to stretch the body properly into big shape, they compensate by turning the head only - not really healthy, and in my venue, many coaches are not really helpful about this

    Most couples on that video look like being frozen in some 'desired' ballroom position, so I would suggest some spine flexibility exercises to most of them before even trying to dance in the couples, otherwise - it can be quite painful experience ...
    samina likes this.
  15. samina

    samina Well-Known Member

    Very helpful question and discussion... I know I have struggle with this as well. Larinda, your description and Lorrraine's both very clarifying.
  16. Dancebug

    Dancebug Active Member

    I read, watched and learned many good ideas about lady's frame. What's challenging for me is the ability to keep a nice posture throughout the dynamic movements. It is not that hard to get into a nice posture in a static position (e.g. when you are invited before dance starts). But once you turn right, left, step forward, backward, CBMP, outside partner, promenade, etc, I don't think you can insist on keeping the same posture. You will have to turn your neck, torso, hip or foot more to left or right. And then you should be able to come to the original position, too.

    As for me, the OP has her neck problem because she tries to maintain her original posture regardless of which figures they are doing.
  17. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, dance position, especially the neck, is not static. It is fluid and the joints and muscles have to change with every step you take, in order to keep the ILLUSION of the same position.
    stash likes this.
  18. pruthe

    pruthe Member

  19. mindputtee

    mindputtee Well-Known Member

    Update: Yesterday at practice I tried not turning my head at all and had 0 strain. It made it much easier to relax my neck muscles. In combination with the Loraine Barry lecture, I'm going to keep doing this and try gradually adding in a little turn. Thank you everyone!
    JudeMorrigan, dlliba10 and dbk like this.
  20. bia

    bia Well-Known Member

    Yay! Before you start re-adding head turn, I'd say that it would make sense to have that lesson with a good female coach to see if you even want to have any turn at the neck itself, or if the comfortable position is also the correct position (wouldn't that be nice!). E.g., Loraine seems to just be talking about rotation in the upper back, not in the neck.
    dlliba10 and stash like this.

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