Working with forward head: myofascial release

Read the first post in this series here. My notes are at the end of this post, along with a link to the following post. ~ MaryAnn

by Cate Radebaugh

So, I had another ‘forward head position’ appointment with Mary Ann. She is very excited about the new Zero Balancing work she’s learned and briefly contemplated adding that to this session, but decided against it. Myofascial release it was.


Notice that Cate’s ear is in front of the middle of her shoulder. The SCM runs from behind her ear to her chest.

First, she took a picture of my neck so we can all track my progress.

Then, because this is “take some of your clothes off and cover up with a sheet” work, that’s what I did. (Those sheets are so soft. They’re made of microfiber. I suggest you get some for yourself. Or go do work with Mary Ann, because they’re part of the treat. Now back to the forward head thingy.)

One of the advantages of working with Mary Ann is she shares her knowledge about bodies with her clients as she’s working on them. I feel on speaking terms with some of my muscles now.

Two big ones are the sternocleidomastoids, SCMs for short. They run from my mastoid processes – the two bumps behind my ears at the base of my skull – down my neck and attach to my collarbones and sternum, and are what turn and nod my head.

Then there are the trapezius muscles, which attach to the base of the skull, run down the back of the neck, and attach to the shoulder blades and back.

And then there are the scalene muscles, three on each side, that sound like Italian brothers and do I don’t remember what. I do remember Mary Ann separating each one of them out from the others with her fingers, and it was A.Ma.Zing, as if there were many very small finger-like roots or root-like fingers elongating inside my neck like mycelium.

There were several other muscles, too, only I don’t remember their names. No matter. What’s important to me is knowing that for my head to float back up where it belongs, the muscles across my chest must open and release outward and those in the back of my neck must move down somehow.

Even more important than that is the sense of awareness I have of all these muscles, and the sense that they now have an awareness of me.

The session was so relaxing that my mind wandered somewhat, and I imagined having a great deal of money, and with it, I would purchase all MaryAnn’s appointments for two years and come every day, all day, and just do this work. I shared that with MA and she suggested that it might be a little much, as she’d done some intensive work once and it made her noodly, which wasn’t good for driving.

I said I didn’t care about that because I would be very rich, and I’d just hire a driver and someone to put me on a gurney and push me in and out of her office. Of course, the intent of this work is to stand up straight, not ride a gurney around Austin, so never mind.

The session would have been perfect except for two things. I shared with MaryAnn my assumption that as my head came back where it belonged, the ‘C’ in my neck would straighten. She got a somber expression on her face, and I knew bad news was coming.

“Your neck is completely normal,” she said. Yeah, well, so are my feet, which are yuge.

And as I was preparing to leave, we were talking about relaxation and she spontaneously shared with me that sometimes, when clients relax, they fart, and then they get all tense again because they’re trying to keep that from recurring. Damn. I have intense social anxiety about farting in public, and while I hadn’t worried about it before because I hadn’t relaxed that much, you can bet I’m worried about it now.

On the other hand, when I turn my head now, or nod, I am affectionately aware of my SCMs, and I know the Scalene Brothers are in there, doing what they do, and that all feels friendly and homelike to me. I have a body, and a relationship with it, and an image of it, and all of that is coming up for me at MaryAnn’s, and maybe, just maybe, it will all be okay.

MaryAnn’s comments:

It’s such a pleasure to be working on this collaborative project with Cate!

My main techniques to help Cate’s body learn to carry her head with ease are Zero Balancing and myofascial release. I studied Tom Myers’ video Easing the Neck, developed specifically for relieving forward head posture, and also use David Lauterstein’s Deep Massage techniques, which I learned in massage school. Because our sessions are usually brief (30 minutes), I wanted this second session to focus on myofascial release.

Zero Balancing is done fully clothed. I need to make skin contact to do myofascial release, hence undressing the part being worked.

The sheets are from Comphy, which sells to spas and has a line of home bedding as well.

I can talk about what I’m doing when I work on someone who’s interested, but it’s not required. Some sessions are mostly silent. Cate needs material so we talk!

The triplets Anthony, Marco, and Paolo Scalini (aka the anterior, medial, and posterior scalenes) side-bend the neck, lowering the ear toward the shoulder.

This is beautiful: Even more important than that is the sense of awareness I have of all these muscles, and the sense that they now have an awareness of me.

Farting is a sign you’re relaxed. It’s a good sign in the context of receiving a massage. I worry about farting when I’m giving bodywork, that it will change the energy in a session. I guess the best that can be said is that if I’m farting, I’m relaxed, and you wouldn’t want to receive a massage from a tense therapist, would you? If we need to air out the room for either of our farts, I will do that! So just give me some warning if you need to fart. I’ll start fanning.

Read the next post in this series here.



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