As I was being Rolfed today, I heard something that I had never heard before. The limbic system, or the part of our brain that is the most reptilian (fight or flight) is linked the extensor muscles. When a person becomes alert, the extensors straighten the body and neck and lift the head. Imagine a deer eating grass in a meadow and it hears a startling sound. It lifts it’s head. It’s alert. After the starting sound passes and there’s no sign of danger, the deer will relax and begin to eat the grass again.
So imagine humans who work in high-demanding jobs and have young children and commute to work. Or, imagine people who have two high-demanding jobs, or one that keeps them for long hours. People in these kinds of situations are on constant alert. They are on alert at work, on the way to and from work and at home. Time for rest is not considered until it’s time for bed.
It is in this high-stress kind of situation that the extensor muscles will fire. If the alert is constant, the firing will be constant. This firing will fatigue the body and cause low grade inflammation. This is the link between stress and back pain or neck pain or any kind of pain that comes from extensor muscles.
If you see a deer in the winter, you will see a hard deer. It will look haggard and tough. Winter is a hard time for deer. Winter is a time for being on alert for the search of food and constant muscle firing with the shivers. A winter deer is a stressed deer. When summer comes around and the food is plentiful, the deer is more relaxed and looks more supple. When a wind blows and ruffles the leaves, the deer becomes alert for a moment until the wind passes and then relaxes.
People in high-stress situations need for the wind to stop blowing so their body can relax.