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Tongue tightness and chronic neck pain

tongue tightness and chronic neck pain

Just because your tongue doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t mean it is not causing chaos in your neck! Did you know that a chronic neck pain and tongue tightness can go hand in hand? When dealing with chronic neck issues that are not coming around with other techniques or services, I have found the tongue can be a missing piece.

Chronic neck pain: always assess the tongue, they always go together. -Dr. Perry Nickelston

There are 9 different muscles that connect the tongue/floor of the mouth with the neck: that’s a lot! If the muscles underneath the tongue are tight, imagine how tight the neck can be!

Not only our most tongues tight, they also may be weak. Our tongues are supposed to “live” or rest on the roof of our mouths (the entire tongue, not just the front/tip) when we are not eating or talking. Most people’s tongues “live” on the floor of the mouth and are considered “weak or lazy.” A weak tongue often has teeth marks or ridges along the sides (sign of liver or gallbladder issues in Eastern medicine) because it is too fat or big for the mouth.

tongue tightness and chronic neck pain

Proper tongue position on the roof of the mouth helps align the cervical spine as it pulls the head back into better alignment over your neck. Most of the population suffers from forward head posture due to gravity and tech neck positioning due to looking at screens all day. You will notice a slight shift and improvement in your head & neck alignment when you practice proper tongue positioning throughout the day.

Try This! Turn your neck from side to side. Do you feel a pinching or less range of motion on one side vs the other? Now swallow and at end of the swallow suction your entire tongue to the roof of your mouth and hold it in that position. Now try and turn your neck again side to side. Does it feel different? Less pinch? More range of motion? Did you notice a subtle shift in head position?

Sometimes just getting the entire tongue to contact the roof of the mouth is challenging and that is when we focus on manual tongue release techniques and teach you home exercises to both loosen and strengthen the tongue.

Your tongue is also a lymphatic organ. It drains to lymph nodes in the floor of the mouth and down the neck. The lymph in the back of your tongue drains to the deep lymph nodes in the neck. When the back of your tongue does not contact the roof of your mouth, the lymph in this area gets clogged. This stagnation can cause these neck lymphatics to become overburdened with toxins leading to sore throat, stiff neck and neck pain.

Do you have a tongue issue? Possible signs and symptoms:

  • Sleep apnea

  • Snoring

  • Neck or back pain

  • Headaches

  • Hypoxia

  • Digestion issues

  • Fatigue

  • Speech issues

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • TMJ/Clenching/Grinding

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, book a session today! By optimizing tongue motion and function, you can significantly change movement patterns, relieve chronic pain, and even change emotional reactions in the entire body. We will explore some of these areas in more depth and the connection of the tongue to hip/back pain in a future blog.


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