A Pain in the neck

November 4th, 2013


“Too much thinking!”




This was the ‘diagnosis’ of a shiatsu therapist during a session many years ago. He was referring to the energy imbalances in and around my neck where I was experiencing problems at the time.


Of course there is a little more to neck pain than thinking a lot. What might some of these reasons be? Well, I am so glad you asked…



Accident and injury


Let us get the obvious causes out of the way first. Injuries like ‘whiplash’ and fracture; subluxation of the vertebrae; disk prolapse or wear; muscular strain and tears will all usually result in neck pain.


Of course these can also produce secondary problems like chronic headache, poor posture, eye strain and compensations all along the spine resulting in pain elsewhere in the body that may not be immediately linked to the original injury in the neck.


In addition there are mechanical reasons like poor posture (I’m talking to you there in front of the computer!), lack of exercise and muscle development  and so on. In other words if these are our reasons for neck pain they are eminently fixable with a little application.



The meridians involved in neck pain


Think of the energy meridians of traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine as lines of software code that influence the functioning of the hardware they control and ‘program’. Each meridian system has it own personality and area of influence. It not only has connections to physical functions but has correspondences with our thought patterns, psychology and emotional life. In other words, they form one of the ways we connect ourself to our Self.


If you have begun to think this suggests that the common symptom of neck pain may have very different causes and origins in different people you would be correct. Therefore it can be interesting to observe the particular meridians affecting the neck.


straight chart


The Gall Bladder (GB) meridian: the weight of the world on our shoulders


This meridian passes through the large trapezius muscle in the shoulder, travels upwards behind the large muscles in the neck, under the base of the skull and over the side of the head to the eyes.


The GB meridian has the title ‘The Minister of Justice’ and deals with our sense or right and wrong, should and should not, guilt and duty, personal responsibility and personal boundaries to the will of others. As you may have noticed we are no longer referring to an anatomical organ but a whole consciousness software system integrating many physical and non-physical functions at once.


Typical situations that cause stagnation in this meridian:


  • Taking on responsibility without the authority and power to be effective.
  • Unexpressed conflict with another where we repress our frustration over a longer period.
  • Living or working in a threatening, critical or self-esteem damaging relationship or situation. Being highly self-critical only adds to this effect.


GB 20



The Urinary Bladder (UB) meridian: staying upright under the weight of our own history…


This is another meridian system that has a lot more dimension to it than its humble organ connection may suggest. The UB meridian runs parallel with the spine and transverses all the way from the head to the toes. It is responsible for holding us upright and stable under the forces of gravity.


The UB meridian is unique in that it features diagnostic and treatment points for all the organ systems. The back area in general can become a large storage area of unresolved emotional issues manifesting as muscle tension and pain. This stagnation gathers at its relavent point area and can be very diagnostically instructive to a therapist trained in reading the signs.


A series of compensations for this tension and distortion will find its way to the neck eventually as it is the ‘terminal station’ of the spine.



The Small Intestine (SI) meridian: Trying to think our way through emotions


This meridian passes beside the lower neck vertebrae, the most common site for neck problems, and also helps the GB meridian in shrugging or lifting up the shoulders.


The SI not only controls the detailed sorting of micro-nutrients for their effective absorption but its equivalent mental processes – thinking and problem solving.


It is also the Yang meridian partner to the Yin meridian of the Heart. Where the heart feels, intuits and knows the SI thinks, theorizes and, at best, knows about. It is knowledge but not wisdom.


One reason we may overuse or strain this meridian is when we try to make it process things it was not made to do. Specifically where we try to ‘think’ an emotion instead of allowing ourselves to feel and express it. While trying to understand why we are in emotional pain may seem reasonable (to the SI at least as it deals in reason) it can also be misused in an attempt to avoid the confrontation and ‘messiness’ of our emotions.


Directing so much of this heart energy up to the head forces everything else to follow resulting in raised shoulders and stagnation in the neck and head. Our energy goes up but cannot come down and we end up feeling physically and mentally exhausted while being no closer to having solved our emotional issues. It’s a pain in the neck really.



The Heart and Heart Protector/Constrictor meridians/areas (Ht/HC): The soft center of the Self.


While the Ht and HC meridians do not reach the neck its influence most certainly does. The heart area is in the center of the chest and reflected at the corresponding level on the back between the shoulder blades.


When this area becomes vulnerable and protected we sink in the chest, tighten our upper back and raise our shoulders like a boxer to protect ourselves and block energy flow between the heart and the head. The neck is the unfortunate bridge upon which that traffic is blocked.


Just massaging the shoulders, while initially relaxing, will not solve the issue. On the contrary, by taking away the heart protection of our defensive posture we will feel exposed and soon manifest that raised shoulder protection again.


In this case the areas of the Ht and HC in the chest and upper back must first be released before we can be therapuetically effective in treating the neck. This usually brings the person in contact with the very emotions they have been repressing and protecting. It will at least give them a chance to be conscious about them and have a choice about what they want to do.


The ‘Window of the Sky’ point group


Star head


This suggestive title, given to a group of points on different meridians covering the heart, neck/throat and base of the skull areas deals with the connection of energy-consciousness between the mind (the ‘sky’) and that which lies unconscious within us. These points form the ‘windows’ that reopen this connection.


The unconscious is on an eternal journey to become conscious. Like waves from the sea rolling in to the shore we are constantly receiving signals to become more conscious of something in our personal evolution.


Of course we do not always pay attention to these signals so they have to resort to something stronger and more uncomfortable to grab our attention. We usually experience this as discomfort in the form of symptoms.


If we repress these our long suffering unconscious may have to resort to even stronger signals – whatever it takes to bring our attention to the issue we need to look at.



“Take it to the bridge!”



In other words symptoms in the neck can often be the result of where it lies in the body. It often finds itself in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught in the traffic gridlock between the heart and the mind, the conscious and unconscious.


We are quite simple in our basic reflexes when confronted with any threat be it from within or without. We protect our throat. After all there a four very quick ways to kill or be killed here:


  • Severing the carotid atery
  • Severing the jugular vein
  • Severing the spinal cord
  • Severing or crushing the wind pipe.


Why do you think animals go for the throat to make the quickest kill? Our unconscious defence reflex is to lift the shoulders up and forward. It is not often if at all that our life will actually be threatened in this way. Us sophisticated folk have invented far more subtle ways to hurt ourselves and each other…


Try telling that to our pain in the neck though.



Till we can bear to turn our head to face another Monday,





© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com

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