Scholars1 agree that there are three main reasons people enjoy scary movies. (1) Horror films entertain; some think it is exciting to try and figure out what is happening before it happens. (2) Horror films are a way of unravelling evil; things that can’t be explained through science are explained. (3) Horror films teach us to deal with our own anxiety; if we can get through the movie without screaming, we are deemed the bravest person in the world. We have conquered our fears. Watching scary movies might also be a distraction from other emotions—a way to get away from a bad day. While there might be many other reasons that you watch horror films (or reasons you don’t watch them if you’re like me), something that few scholars talk about is the effect that watching a horror film has on the body, specifically neck pain.
Here’s why scary movies are bad for your neck:
Tense muscles during a scary movie are often caused by suspense. You’re waiting for the monster to attack practically throughout the whole movie, which means you go about 2 hours keeping your muscles tight because we all know the crazy stuff usually happens toward the end. Muscle tension is a natural response to a perceived threat. Just like scary movies make our heart rate go up because of our flight or fight response, scary movies also cause us to tense up and cringe because our body senses a threat. Muscle tension from fear can later cause soreness and pain. When you know that the dumb character in the film is about to be murdered, you sense the looming threat and tighten everything until the scary part is over. You might even hold your breath and then relax. Contracting and relaxing your muscles throughout the movie will make you feel extra tired when the movie is over when you can finally, truly relax—unless it’s bedtime (and it always is).
Jerking your neck back.
When the creepy girl from the Ring jumps out of the TV or the clown from It shows up on the screen, you jerk back like the monster is in the room with you attacking you. It’s a natural instinct, but it could possibly injure your neck. Quick movements of the neck can cause soreness, kinks, and muscle spasms. Because your muscles are already tensed up from the suspense that has built up the whole movie of the creepy girl murdering people, jerking your neck back might add extra strain on your neck muscles because they were already tense. You could also jerk your neck to the side, up, or down because you want to quickly avoid seeing that scary-looking face, the face of death and despair. Unfortunately, closing your eyes doesn’t always help because the image seems to be branded into your brain. And now your neck hurts too.
Unless you love the gore, you probably look down during certain parts of the movie, like when the shark attacks or when the murderer stabs the victim and blood squirts everywhere. Looking down strains your neck and causes pain at the base of the skull, especially if your muscles are already tight (which, again, they are). Instead of looking down, try leaning into a friend or skipping the movie altogether.
If I scared you away from scary movies and you’re sad, don’t be. You can still watch them. Just take some precautions by preparing your neck for the movie. Use Chirp’s Handheld Hot & Cold Massage Ball to warm your muscles up during the movie so that your muscles won’t be as tense when you jerk your head this and that way. Watch the movie with a friend so that you can safely burrow your head into a safe chest before the bad part begins. Take some of these precautions this Halloween so that you can make sure that your neck doesn’t haunt you—even if something else does . . .