Massage & Bodywork

January/February 2011

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WORKING WITH THE SCALENES It is the scalanes' slanting, inclined, and tilted orientation that gives rise to their name. Scalene is a transliteration from Greek, meaning "skew": neither parallel nor perpendicular. This angled arrangement, in addition to making the scalenes powerful side-benders and rotators of the neck, puts them in position to align and stabilize the upright cervical column, much as would the angled rigging of a ship's mast (Image 2). At least, that's how the scalenes function when they're balanced. When they're shorter or tighter on one side, their angled left/right and anterior/posterior arrangement can cause them to literally "skew" the neck and upper ribs. This means that scalenes are involved in these postural and positional issues: • Torticollis (wry neck) is a persistent and often painful torsion of the neck, typically accompanied by asymmetrical scalene spasm and rigidity. The soft tissue and bones of the neck, compared to a ship's angled rigging and upright mast. Image courtesy Eric Franklin ( Used with permission. (left): In head-forward postures, the scalenes (arrow) are often contracted. Image courtesy Primal Pictures. Used with permission. (right): Although the scalenes (arrow) are usually cervical flexors, when the neck is extended or lordotic, their attachments move posterior to the vertebral bodies causing them to act as neck extensors, further perpetuating the lordosis when shortened. Image courtesy • In both head-forward postures, as well as the "dowager's hump" pattern, the anterior scalenes are often hard, tight, and short, pulling the lower cervical vertebra forward into a rigidly flexed position (Image 3). • Although usually considered cervical flexors, once the neck is extended (as in the cervical lordosis that often accompanies a head-forward position), the scalenes can become cervical extensors. This change in function is earn CE hours at your convenience: abmp's online education center, 109

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