Doing regular of exercise is important for so many reasons, but in this situation let’s look at how it can help the neck. Our necks do an an often underrated, difficult job, holding up and back our heads, which in itself weighs a little bit more than a bowling ball. This job becomes increasingly harder if we spend our days at a computer or in the car or carry ourselves badly letting our head sit out in front of our neck.
Getting the right sets of exercises done to help keep the head over the neck and help get the shoulders back and get the cervical stabilising muscles stronger helps to support the spine and helps reduces stress to the static structures like the discs and the facet joints which can’t get our of the way of the postural strain otherwise. Doing these exercises can go a lot of the way to preventing neck pain and if you suffer from neck pain, it’s all the more important to take the pressure off your neck by helping to support and strengthen the neck muscles. If you have an existing neck problem it is prudent to mention that these exercises must be done at the appropriate time of recovery and seek advice if you are not certain.
WHERE TO START: THE CHIN TUCK
This is one of the most effective postural exercises for combating neck pain. This exercise not only helps strengthen the muscles that pull the head back into alignment over the shoulders but it also stretches the scalene and suboccipital muscles (important muscles that can cause neck pain and even contribute to headaches) .The chin tuck exercise can be done numerous times throughout the day, such as while sitting in the car or at the desk at work. The repetition of this exercise throughout the day also helps develop good postural habits.
It is especially important to perform this exercise when the neck and shoulder blades first begin to hurt.To perform the exercise for the first time it is often recommended that patients stand with the spine up against a door jamb and the feet out about 3 inches from the bottom of the door jamb (Figure 1).
• Keeping the spine against the door jamb, pull the upper back and head back until the back of the head touches the door jamb. It is important to make sure that the chin is down so that the head is pulled straight back and is not looking up (Figure 2).
• Hold the head against the door jamb for 5 seconds.
• Repeat this ten times.
• After performing this exercise in a door jamb about ten times, start doing the exercise in standing or sitting without a door jamb.
• The exercise can be done 5 to 7 times per day.
• When in the car, use the headrest as a point to aim for when pulling the head back.
• Patients may feel some stretching of the muscles on the side of the neck that go down to the collarbone. These are the scalene muscles. These muscles along with the muscles at the top of the neck at the base of the skull are generally the tight muscles. The muscles in the front of the neck and muscles of the upper back are generally the weak muscles that need to be strengthened.
This exercise is done standing with the back up against a large flat wall and the feet about 4 inches out from the bottom of the wall.
• Assume the same position as the chin tuck exercise with the back of the head against the wall.
• Try to flatten the lower back against the wall.
• Place the elbows, forearms and the backs of the hands and fingers on the wall with wrists about shoulder height (Figure 3).
• Keeping the arms, hands, head and fingers all touching the wall as best possible, slowly slide the hands up above the head (Figure 4) and slowly back down (back to Figure 3).
• Repeat this 10 times, 3 to 5 times per day.
• A more advanced exercise that strengthens the muscles of the shoulder girdle as well as the neck and upper back is the prone cobra exercise. This is done lying on the floor face down. The face down position uses gravity as resistance in the strengthening process.
• Lying face down, place the forehead on a rolled up hand towel for comfort.
• Place the arms at the side, palms down on the floor.
• Place the tongue on the roof of the mouth (this helps stabilize the muscles in the front of the neck to assist in strengthening) (Figure 5).
• Pinch the shoulder blades together and lift the hands off the floor.
• Roll the elbows in, palms out and thumbs up (Figure 6).
• Gently lift the forehead about an inch off the towel keeping the eyes looking straight at the floor (do not tip the head back and look forward) (Figure 6).
• Hold the position for 10 seconds.
• Perform 10 repetitions.
We advise doing all exercises slowly and carefully with no jerky or sudden movements and avoid pushing too hard in beginning, if in doubt please contact a member of our chiropractic team or a specialist spinal healthcare practitioner to seek advice and guidance.
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