Somatic Tinnitus Neck Exercises
Common causes of tinnitus are age, ototoxic medications, autoimmune inner ear disease, ear infection, earwax blockage, tumors, trauma to the head, etc.
Tinnitus can either be subjective or objective. The tinnitus patient only hears subjective tinnitus noise; this is the most common type of tinnitus, while objective tinnitus noise can be heard by a doctor with the aid of a stethoscope.
Other types of tinnitus include neurological tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus, and somatic tinnitus.
Our focus in this article is somatic tinnitus. We will give you a brief overview of what somatic tinnitus is, then we will examine some somatic tinnitus neck exercises.
What is Somatic Tinnitus?
Somatic tinnitus, also known as somatosensory tinnitus, is a type of subjective tinnitus caused, influenced, or worsened by the body's sensory system. Somatic tinnitus occurs when the somatosensory information from the jaw and cervical spine is changed.
The somatosensory system is a part of the sensory nervous system, which is made up of a complex network of sensory nerves and neurons. These neurons respond to changes within the body and on the surface of the body, such as pain, movement, temperature, touch, and pressure.
Somatic signals are sensory signals that are generated from the muscle position sensors in the neck, face, arm, temporomandibular joint, head, and tongue.
Causes of Somatic Tinnitus
Below are some causes of somatic tinnitus. These causes can also worsen tinnitus.
1. Muscle Spasm in the Neck
A spasm is the involuntary tightening of muscles in the body, which causes severe pain that can last for minutes or days. Spasms happen in any part of the body where there are muscles, including the neck.
One of the most common muscles around the neck affected by spasms is the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle. The sternocleidomastoid muscle is located on either side of the neck behind the ears at the base of the skull.
The muscle goes down the front of the neck and attaches to the top of the collarbone and sternum.
The sternocleidomastoid muscle is responsible for the following:
- Side to side rotation of the head.
- Chewing and swallowing.
- Bending of the neck forward to bring the chin to the chest.
- It aids respiration and breathing.
- Turning the neck to bring the ear to the shoulder.
- Stabilizing the head when it drops backward.
Sternocleidomastoid spasms are often caused by muscle tension or tightness in other parts of the body, and they can cause somatic tinnitus.
Repeated activities like turning your head away from the center when using a computer, bending forward to type, poor posture, looking down at your phone, injuries such as whiplash, sudden movements, sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side, and tight shirt collar or tie can cause sternocleidomastoid spasm or pain.
Severe health conditions like bronchitis, pneumonia, meningitis, herniated discs, and asthma can also cause this neck muscle spasm.
Asides from the above causes of sternocleidomastoid pain, the following can cause neck spasm;
Carrying heavy objects, placing a lot of weight on one of your shoulders, poor postures like head tilting and slouching, holding the neck in an unnatural position for a long time, dehydration, trauma from falls or accidents, and emotional stress.
2. Muscle Spasm in the Ear
Muscle spasm in the ear, such as eardrum spasm can cause somatic tinnitus.
The stapedius muscles and tensor tympani muscles found in the middle ear are responsible for the dampening and reduction of sounds coming from outside the ear and inside the body, respectively. The spasm of these muscles results in what is known as Middle Ear Myoclonus or MEM tinnitus.
Somatic tinnitus is caused by the synchronized and repetitive contractions of the two muscles, and it manifests as a thumping, clicking, buzzing, or crackling noise in the ear.
Other health conditions like neurologic diseases that cause muscle spasm and multiple sclerosis can cause the middle ear muscles to spasm, thereby causing a repetitive clicking noise.
3. Dental Problems
Dental problems can also cause or aggravate somatic tinnitus. Below are some dental problems linked with tinnitus.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth
Impacted wisdom teeth are the third molars at the back of the mouth that do not emerge or develop normally due to a lack of enough space for the teeth to grow.
Wisdom teeth are often the last to grow; they emerge between the age of 17 and 25. If the mouth is already crowded, the wisdom teeth may get trapped and not be able to develop properly.
In some cases, the tooth may partially emerge with a visible crown (partially impacted), but in other cases, it can be fully impacted; this means that it didn't grow through the gum.
The tooth can also grow at an angle towards the back of the mouth, grow straight or down but get trapped within the jawbone, grow at an angle toward the second molar or grow at a right angle to the other teeth.
Some impacted wisdom teeth cause no immediate problems, but others can cause damage to other teeth, excruciating pain, tinnitus, and other dental problems.
Symptoms associated with impacted wisdom teeth are jaw pain, bad breath, red or swollen gum, unpleasant taste in the mouth, bleeding gums, and difficulty opening your mouth.
It is always advisable to have an impacted wisdom tooth removed whether or not it causes any problems because it can get infected in the future and cause serious dental challenges.
Bruxism / Teeth Grinding
Bruxism is the formal term used to refer to teeth clenching and grinding. Teeth grinding can cause ear pain, tinnitus, or damaged teeth.
The temporomandibular joint is very close to the middle and inner ear, so any problem in the jawbone can affect the ear and cause tinnitus.
The majority of teeth grinding occurs when sleeping, and the grinding can be so hard that it cracks the crown of the teeth, fractures teeth fillings, and destroys dental implants. Most people who grind their teeth are often unaware that they are nocturnal grinders.
Bruxism is often associated with the improper lining of teeth, stress, and anxiety. Medications like Zoloft and Prozac can also cause teeth grinding.
Common side effects of teeth grinding are indention on the tongue, sore Jaws, a dull constant headache, tender teeth, and a clicking sound when you open your mouth.
Toothache is another major cause of tinnitus and ear pain. It is often caused by an abscess, a cavity, gum disease, or tooth injury.
Tinnitus caused by dental problems like toothache often disappears when the toothache’s underlying cause is identified and treated.
4. TMJ Dysfunction/ Disorder
Tinnitus can be linked to problems that stem from the temporomandibular joint. As stated earlier, the temporomandibular joint is located close to the middle and inner ear, so the hearing can be affected if it malfunctions.
The TMJ connects the jawbone to the skull and enables the free movement of the skull.
The temporomandibular joint can be damaged by teeth grinding and clenching, direct injury to the jaw and neck, and spinal injuries.
TMJ dysfunction is characterized by pain around and in the ear, headache, earache, migraine, hearing loss, difficult or painful chewing, inability to open and close the mouth, reduced movement of the jaw, persistent pain in the jaw, and somatic tinnitus that occurs when chewing or when the mouth is opened.
Mild TMJ disorders often go away without any treatment, but you need to seek professional medical help in care where the pain is severe and persistent.
After proper examination, the dentist may treat the problem using muscle relaxing medications, moist heat, relaxing muscle therapies, rest, or an oral splint. An oral splint will help to reposition your jaw and bite to enable the TMJ to heal.
Relationship Between your Neck and Your Hearing
Several studies have proven that there is a connection between the somatosensory system (of the neck) and the temporomandibular joint and the cochlear nuclei.
The cochlear nuclei are the nuclei in the ear that receive first-order order auditory input from the Corti organ. The organ of the Corti is located in the cochlea in the inner ear.
The studies have shown that temporomandibular somatosensory or cervical information is transported to the brain through neural fibers. These neural fibers emanate from cell bodies in the dorsal root ganglia; some also project from the central auditory system.
The passage of somatosensory information through these neural fibers from the central auditory system enables The somatosensory system to influence the auditory system majorly by altering spontaneous or sudden rates or synchrony of fringing among neurons in the auditory cortex or central nervous system.
Through this mechanism, the somatosensory system can change the pitch, loudness, or severity of the tinnitus, and this is why certain movements can trigger somatic tinnitus.
Somatic tinnitus patients are often able to trigger or change the volume or pitch of their tinnitus by doing certain movements like head rotation, movement of the arms, movement of the mouth, contractions of the head, contractions of the TMJ, and movement or contractions of the neck.
Are you wondering how the neck fits into all of this? Here is how. The upper neck (upper cervical spine) is responsible for protecting and supporting the nerve tissues that cause tinnitus when irritated. The upper neck is the most movable part of the spine, and it is more susceptible to injuries when stress is placed on the spine.
Examples of activities that can stress or injure the neck are whiplash, slips, falls, concussions, sports injuries, and car accidents.
When the neck is exposed to stress beyond what it can handle, upper cervical subluxation may occur. Upper cervical subluxation.
Subluxation refers to the misalignment or improper functioning of a joint caused by stress. In this case, there is abnormal functioning of the upper spine, often accompanied by nerve irritation.
If the upper cervical subluxation is left untreated, it can lead to the joint’s ear and tear, which causes secondary conditions such as tinnitus. In this case, the treating or the alignment of the neck can cure the tinnitus.
Asides from an upper cervical subluxation, muscle tension in the neck or jaw can also cause tinnitus.
Somatic Tinnitus Neck Exercises
The first treatment for somatic tinnitus is usually aimed at reducing muscular tension in the jaw and neck. This is why neck exercises are recommended for people with somatic tinnitus.
Stretching of the suboccipital muscles and rotation movements in the atlanto occipital joint often helps relieve somatic tinnitus.
Aside from easing neck stiffness, spasms, and soreness, exercising can help increase your heart rate, which helps boost blood circulation in your ear, reducing the tinnitus noise.
If you have somatic tinnitus, below are some neck exercises that can give you some relief;
- Sit up straight on a chair
- Bend your left arm. This will prevent you from pulling your shoulder up during the exercise.
- Using your right hand, reach over your head to the left ear.
- Bring your head to a stretching position. You will feel the side of your neck stretching.
- Remain in this position for about two to three minutes.
- Change sides.
- Sit up straight.
- Lower your chin to your chest.
- Intertwine your ten fingers and place the joined hands on the back of your head.
- Pull your head back while using your fingers to restrain the motion.
- Ensure that you do not overexert your neck.
- Repeat the exercise about two to three times daily.
- Stand or sit with your head looking forward.
- Turn your head gently to the right.
- Loosely place your right hand on the back of your head.
- Let the weight of your hand push your chin down toward the right side of your chest.
- Hold your head in this position for 15 seconds. Ensure your muscles are relaxed.
- Repeat the stretch three times on each side.
- Sit up straight on a chair.
- Move your chin up and down in a nodding motion.
- Repeat the nodding motion twenty times.
- Move your chin side by side as if you are shaking your head.
- Repeat the movement twenty times.
- Make sure your neck is not strained during the entire process.
- Repeat the entire exercise three times.
- Stand or sit with your arms dropping down at your side.
- Stretch your hands behind your back
- With your right hand, grasp your left wrist.
- Gently pull your left arm down.
- Tilt your head to the right side. Continue tilting until you feel a mild stretch in your neck.
- Hold the stretch for about fifteen to thirty seconds.
- Repeat the exercise three times on each side.
- Sit up straight
- Open your Jaws wide, but not too wide that they begin to hurt. Keep them relaxed.
- With your mouth still open, tilt your head back.
- Keep tilting your head until you are looking directly up at the ceiling.
- Breathe in deeply and exhale slowly.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat the exercise.
- Lay on the floor with your back and head on the ground
- Gently begin to nod with your head. If your head doesn't reach your chest, it is fine
- Repeat the nodding as many times as possible
- Repeat the process sideways by moving your head side to side as many times as you wish
- Stand up straight or sit straight in a firm chair.
- Keep your chin level and turn your head to the right.
- Hold in the position for about 15 to 30 seconds.
- Repeat the exercise two to four times on each side.
- Lie down on a mat as if you want to do a traditional sit-up.
- Place your hands being your head.
- Tuck your neck into your chest.
- Lift your head off the floor. Ensure your shoulders are on the floor when lifting your head.
- Repeat the exercise five times.
- Sit straight or stand up straight.
- Gradually tilt your head toward your left shoulder.
- While slightly bending your head forward, turn your head to look down into your armpit.
- Allow the weight of your head to stretch your neck muscles.
- Hold the position for about fifteen to thirty seconds.
- Return to your starting position.
- Repeat the entire procedure but this time, tilt your head toward your right shoulder.
- Repeat the entire exercise about two to four times.
- Lie flat on the floor.
- Place a rolled-up towel under your neck
- Let your head touch the floor.
- Slowly move your chin toward the front of your neck.
- Hold your head in the position and count up to six.
- Relax for about ten seconds.
- Repeat the process about eight to twelve times.
- Stand up straight or sit up in a firm chair.
- Relax your shoulders by lightly holding onto the chair or your thigh.
- Tilt your head toward your shoulder.
- Hold for about fifteen to thirty seconds.
- Allow the weight of your head to stretch your neck muscles.
- For additional stretch
- Place your arm behind your back.
- If you are tilting your head to the left, use your right arm and vice versa.
- Repeat the stretch two to four times towards each shoulder.
- Stand up straight or sit in a firm chair.
- Bend your head forward.
- Hold your head forward for about fifteen to thirty seconds.
- Return your head to your starting position.
- Repeat the process two to four times.
Guidelines for Neck Exercises
To get the best out of neck exercises for tinnitus, it is important to follow certain guidelines. Below are certain dos and don'ts that you need to adhere to when doing neck exercises.
These guidelines will enable you to get quicker results while doing the neck exercises and prevent future neck pains that can cause tinnitus.
1. Do a variety of exercises
Performing a variety of exercises is more efficient. This enables you to properly exercise every part of the neck well, thereby hastening the healing process.
2. Place your laptop or computer at eye level
Placing your computer or laptop at eye level prevents you from constantly having to bend your neck when working. This helps to correct wrong postures and reduce the occurrence of neck spasms.
3. Drink lots of water
The discs that separate the vertebrae in your spine which also act as shock absorbers, are majorly made up of water. Drinking lots of water keeps these discs healthy and enables them to function properly.
4. Use the right pillow
Avoid using pillows that are too high because they cause the neck to flex forward. If you sleep on your side, ensure that the pillow you use has enough head support to keep your neck, head, and spine properly aligned.
5. Maintain proper posture
Maintaining a proper posture while sitting, standing, walking or sleeping is important. Poor postures cause neck strains. If you notice your posture is wrong, practice the right posture with the appropriate exercises.
1. Don't carry your bag over one shoulder
Carrying your bag over one shoulder can cause an imbalance in the shoulders’ weight and result in neck pain.
2. Don't exercise if you have pain in your arms
If you discover any sudden pain or weakness in your hands or arms, stop exercising. It is also advisable that you inform your doctor immediately.
3. Don't Sleep on your stomach
When you sleep on your stomach, there is a tendency to turn your head to one side to be able to breathe. This unnatural positioning of the head causes neck pain. Practice sleeping on your back or your side this will put less strain on your neck.
4. Don't use too many pillows
Avoid sleeping with multiple pillows. When you sleep with any pillows, your head is flexed forward; this causes a loss of cervical lordosis and also increases the pressure placed on the muscles, joints, and discs on the neck.
5. Don't cradle your phone between your head and neck
Cradling your phone between your head and neck, no matter how short the time, can cause or aggravate neck pain. If you want to keep your hands free when on the phone, use an earpiece.
6. Don't stop exercising when the pain stops
While the aim of exercising is to get rid of the pain, don't stop exercising immediately; the pain stops. Continue doing the exercise for about six to eight more weeks. This will prevent the pain from coming back.
7. Don't stare down at your mobile phone
Constantly looking down at your phone puts a lot of stress and strain on the neck. The cumulative effect of constant bending to look at your phone on the neck can result in extensive wear and tear of the neck’s ligaments, joints, and discs.
Bring your phone to eye level when you are using it; this will keep the neck in a less strenuous position.
8. Avoid slouching
Slouching when sitting or standing is a major cause of neck pain. Practice good posture by sitting or standing upright always. There are also postural exercises that can help improve your posture.
9. Don't sleep on an old mattress
Sleeping on an old and worn-out mattress can affect your sleep posture and cause neck pain. If your mattress is not properly supporting your body when you sleep, it's time to get a new one.
It is important to note that these exercises should only be carried out under your doctor’s supervision. Neck exercises are not a cure for all types of tinnitus; they only may work for somatic tinnitus caused by neck muscle problems.
When performing these exercises, ensure that you do not strain your neck too much to the point of pain.
Have you done any of these neck exercises for tinnitus? Did it relieve your tinnitus symptoms? Leave your response in the comment section below.