The Ancient Tradition of Neck Elongation, Explained
Why would you undergo neck elongation? This procedure, which works to stretch out the neck, causes pain and takes a lot of dedication. It's natural to wonder why anyone would go through the process. But look closer, and you'll realize that how neck elongation is perceived varies widely from person to person. Some cultures have a rich history of neck elongation practices. In many cases, the reasons why people elongate their necks are related to tradition.
But then again, other people opt to elongate their necks for purely cosmetic purposes. Although it may seem strange, is neck elongation any odder than piercing one's ears or inking one's skin with a needle? Body modification is first and foremost a personal choice, but, in some areas of the world, the practice of neck elongation comes with huge significance.
It's One Of The Oldest Forms Of Body ModificationPhoto: Sir George Scott / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The practice of neck elongation has been around for over a thousand years in Southeast Asia, with some historians dating it back to the 11th century. In the past, the rings that cause the modification were worn as a rite of passage or as a sign of wealth, and were reserved for women only. Today, the rings are often worn to continue the ancient tradition.
The Origins Of The Practice Are A MysteryPhoto: Yves Picq / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Some historians say that neck elongation rings are worn as a status symbol in Southeast Asian Padaung tribes, which is often the case with jewelry body modification. Others theorize that women began stretching their necks to become less attractive to slave traders. Tribal mythology says that donning neck rings started as a defense against tiger bites.
The most commonly accepted explanation is that a long neck is a sign of beauty and wealth, and a woman with one is more likely to land a good husband.
Girls Can Start The Process As Young As FivePhoto: Diliff / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Neck stretching usually involves wearing ring-like collars around one's neck. In groups like the Padaung tribe of Southeast Asia, girls start wearing the rings as young as five years old. The devices are quite heavy; they typically weigh about four-and-a-half pounds initially.
More Rings Are Added Over The YearsPhoto: Wayne77 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
While neck elongation may begin with a simple brass collar, the real changes happen over the years. As the girl grows, more and more rings are added to her neck. Previous coils are often removed, and longer ones are added in their place.
In some tribes, women look forward to this change, as it's one of the only opportunities they have to see their own necks.
The Neck Doesn't Actually Become Any LongerPhoto: Wayne77 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
Despite the name, neck elongation does not make the neck any longer. Instead, the weight of the coils pushes down, making the neck appear longer. The rings press down on the collarbones and, in turn, the ribcage, compressing them. This is one of the reasons the practice begins at such a young age - the bones are more malleable.
It Causes Major Structural Changes In The BodyPhoto: Steve Evans / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0
The bodily changes caused by neck elongation can be severe. The weight of the neck rings pushes the clavicle and ribcage down to about 45 degrees below their normal position. That causes the shoulders to slope downward as well.